Each year, 30 to 40 individuals are selected from the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota to participate in the Policy Fellows program at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The program offers practical training in public affairs leadership for emerging leaders seeking new experiences and skills. Policy Fellows come from a variety of professional and personal backgrounds and political affiliations, and have demonstrated leadership in their careers and communities.
**Fellows' professional and community affiliations are current as of October 2011.**
Jamal Adam has been working at Minneapolis Community and Technical College for 10 years as an academic advisor, counselor, and instructor. Originally a refugee from Somalia, Jamal has lived in Minneapolis for the last 13 years. Jamal has a bachelor’s degree in social science and master’s in counseling psychology. He was a 2009 Fellow in the “American Immigration Revisited” teaching seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition, Jamal serves as a member of University of Minnesota’s Intercultural Advisory Council, Minnesota Council of Churches’ Refugee Healing Resource Group and the boards of several nonprofit organizations.
David Asp is an attorney at Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P., practicing primarily in the areas of employment and healthcare litigation. David also advises political committees, nonprofits, and political candidates in administrative proceedings and litigation. David previously served as a Presidential Management Fellow at the United States Department of State. He is an active community volunteer and serves on the board of Community Action Partnership for Suburban Hennepin County. David received his bachelor’s degree from Augsburg College and his law degree from the University of Minnesota.
Karly Baraga Werner is an associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP where she counsels clients with state and federal regulatory concerns. This includes representing telecommunications and energy companies before state and federal agencies and counseling clients on compliance with evolving privacy rules. Karly volunteers her time assisting asylum seekers, working on the Election Protection Program, serving her bar association section, and sitting on an advisory board for her high school in Central Minnesota. Karly received her law degree from Georgetown University. Karly likes to spend time with her two small children, practice yoga, watch football, and catch up on current events.
Chad Bell is the senior director for new business at Best Buy. Chad is responsible for managing the overall business unit and growing the company’s presence in new mobility. Chad has been a fixture in industry conferences discussing the upcoming electrification movement. He was recently named one of the 100 most influential people in the electrification movement by Automotive News. Chad holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas. He has served as the volunteer coach in track and swimming for Special Olympics since 1998.
Sandy Best is the director of government relations for the Minnesota National Guard. In this capacity she is the primary conduit between the Guard and Minnesota state and federal elected officials. Previously she was the commander of the 133d Logistics Readiness Squadron. Sandy has 27 years of military experience and has served in many leadership capacities, including a deployment to Afghanistan. Prior to activation after 9/11, Sandy was a human resource professional. Sandy has a bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas. Sandy lives in Hudson with her husband and two of her four daughters.
Jessica Beyer currently serves as public information director for Blue Earth County where she manages all public relations, communications, and marketing initiatives. She also works directly with the board of commissioners and county departments to execute special projects and bring forward legislative issues. Her previous career experience included time in the private sector within the publishing industry. Most recently she was selected as a 2010 German Marshall Memorial Fellow. Jessica has a master’s degree in business with an emphasis in organizational leadership from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She resides in Mankato with her husband and immediate family.
Nathan Burkett is the county administrator of Todd County, Minnesota. In his role, Nate is accountable to the county board and serves as the chief administrative officer of the county, providing oversight and direction to the county’s departments. Currently, he is facilitating the county’s transition to a results based and strategy aligned organization. Nate holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Hamline University. He lives in Todd County, near Staples, with his family where he enjoys water sports and outdoor activities.
Mike Buttry joined Capella Education Company as vice president for corporate communications in July 2010. Prior to that, Mike served as chief of staff and communications director for U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel. In nine years with Senator Hagel, Mike worked on a wide range of issues including entitlement reform, immigration policy, foreign policy, increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and legislation to enhance the GI Bill. Recently, Mike also worked at a strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C. Mike is from Omaha, Nebraska and is a graduate of Creighton University. He and his wife Susie live in Edina, Minnesota with their daughter Julia.
Sunny Chanthanouvong and his family emigrated from Laos to Minneapolis in 1984. Sunny is the executive director of the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, which responds to urgent resettlement needs of fellow Lao refugees in Minnesota and strives to enhance the quality of life of Minnesota’s Lao families. Sunny received a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Mankato State University and has completed professional development courses in nonprofit management, real estate, and leadership at Hamline University and the University of St. Thomas. Currently, he serves as a board member of the St. Paul Foundation’s Asian Pacific Endowment and a number of other boards and commissions.
Elise Diedrich is the manager of government affairs at SUPERVALU, one of the nation’s largest retail grocers. She focuses on legislative issues in multiple states, compliance regulations and federal PAC activities, as well as public affairs strategy and associate engagement. Previously, Elise worked as a political director for a U.S. Representative, communications director for an environmental nonprofit, and served as a leadership assistant to the Minnesota Senate Majority Leader for eight years. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in international relations and German. Elise lives in St. Paul with her husband and two children.
Valerie Dosland is the director of government affairs at Ewald Consulting, where she provides government relations and lobbying services to clients in the areas of early childhood and K-12 education. Valerie assists her clients in policy development, lobbying, and monitoring of legislative activities as well as grassroots development and engagement. Prior to joining Ewald Consulting, she worked for nine years at the Minnesota House of Representatives as a research consultant specializing in the areas of early childhood and K-12 education. Valerie is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in history and lives in Eagan.
Jeremy Drucker is director of public affairs at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, where he is responsible for strategic communications and special projects. He previously served as communications specialist for Governor Mark Dayton, where he oversaw communications operations in 25 state agencies and was speech writer for Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon. Jeremy also worked in politics and government in New York City and has a master’s degree in literature from the City University of New York, where he also taught English Literature. His academic work focused on critical social theory, specifically the intersection of political, aesthetic and ethical issues.
Carly Eichhorst has worked exclusively within higher education student finance since graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College. Since 2004, she has worked at Augsburg College specifically on issues of education access and affordability. Professional highlights include development of value based financial literacy programming for college students and staff mentoring and supervision. In addition, she is interested in vocation as a framework for professional growth. After the home birth of her daughter in 2009, Carly has been drawn to advocacy of alternative birth options and breastfeeding promotion and support.
Huda Farah is the founder and executive director of HEAL Institute. She holds a master’s of science degree in applied molecular biology and has continued further studies in the areas of maternal and child health epidemiology, child development, and improving quality control in health care systems. In addition to her work in health disparities, she has done significant work with children with special needs and since 2008 has been a leader in the campaign for autism awareness and research in the Somali population in Minnesota. Huda is also a member of the Public Health Emerging Leaders Network and serves on a number of charitable boards.
Curt Fernandez has been the environmental health manager for the City of Minneapolis since 2001. He holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Kerala in India, and master’s degrees in leadership and business administration from Augsburg College in Minnesota. He believes in open communication, team work, partnership, community engagement, and the philosophy that government should reflect the community to serve the needs of the people. Curt was recognized by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in 2004 and 2010 for his community engagement work.
Rich Fischer is the global communications manager for the Medtronic Foundation, the primary philanthropic channel for Medtronic, Inc. Rich develops and manages communications and marketing programs designed to strengthen relationships with Medtronic’s nonprofit partners, with the goal of improving access to quality healthcare and addressing the global burden of chronic disease. He also supports Medtronic’s community affairs and corporate citizenship activities. Before joining Medtronic, Rich worked for a number of Twin Cities public relations and advertising agencies. Rich holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He lives in Eden Prairie with his wife and two sons.
Ankur Garg has worked in design, research and clinical departments of various medical device companies and currently holds a management position at St. Jude Medical.She has a bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve University, as well as master’s degrees in electrical engineering from MIT and in biological sciences from the University of Minnesota.Ankur has been a volunteer counselor and advocate for the Sexual Violence Center in Minneapolis since 2004, and is currently on their board.She is an avid actor and singer in the Twin Cities, and recently helped to form the nonprofit Chain Reaction Theater Project to increase awareness of social injustices and inspire audiences to take action.
Anika Hagenson is senior group manager of government affairs for Target, responsible for legislative affairs at the state and local levels of government. Previously, Anika was administrator of government affairs and contributions at Supervalu Inc. This followed work in Washington, D.C. as a legislative assistant for members of Congress from Wisconsin and California. Anika serves in numerous leadership capacities on state retail association boards, and is treasurer of the Consumer Electronics Retailers Coalition. Anika graduated from Agnes Scott College in Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in German and international relations. She and her husband Mike live in Edina with their daughter Anja and son Kjell.
Kate Johansen is the manager of health and transportation policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. She holds bachelor’s degrees in honors history and political science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. Kate has worked in every branch of Minnesota government and on Capitol Hill. An attorney by trade, she served as editor-in-chief of the William Mitchell Law Review and clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Helen Meyer. Kate was a 2003 Truman Scholar and enjoys working out, writing, humor and humorists, and the great city of St. Paul.
Emy Johnson has been with Target Corporation for more than 22 years and has held various leadership positions. In one of her roles, she led a team across the country working to enhance partnerships in local communities while working with law enforcement, city officials and nonprofit organizations. Her current position involves leading efforts around corporate sustainability for Target. Emy is a board member of the Shoreview Community Foundation and Upper Midwest Security Alliance. She has an undergraduate degree in police science and is currently working to complete her master’s degree in human development. She resides in Shoreview with her husband and three children.
Mariah Levison is the program director at the Center for Conflict Resolution in Minneapolis. Before coming to Minneapolis, she worked for two of the country’s largest dispute resolution centers, the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago, Illinois and the Safe Horizon Mediation Program in New York City. Mariah has been teaching conflict resolution education and social and emotional literacy skills for ten years in settings ranging from shelters to professional development conferences. Additionally, Mariah has worked abroad on development projects in both Latin America and Africa. She has a master’s degree in international affairs from Washington University in St. Louis.
Danna MacKenzie is the director of information systems for Cook County, Minnesota. In addition to her role overseeing the county’s information technology investments, she also serves as administrator for the Cook County Broadband Commission, which has worked to bring next generation broadband infrastructure to all county residents and businesses. Prior to joining the commission, Danna served on the board of Cook County Higher Education, a model distance learning facility located in Grand Marais. She holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management and leadership from Concordia University.
Sona Mehring is founder and CEO of CaringBridge, a nonprofit with a mission to amplify love, hope, and compassion, making every health journey easier. CaringBridge benefits millions of people through service available on the web and via mobile apps. Sona pioneered CaringBridge in 1997 to help a friend’s community stay connected during a high-risk pregnancy and birth of a premature baby. Sona’s passion for and extensive experience in technology was combined with the ability to support people on an emotional level. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.
Erika Mork serves as fundraising and development manager for Three Rivers Park District. She previously served as director of development for Opportunity Partners, a large human service organization. Erika holds a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from the University of St. Thomas. Prior to spending a year as a Fulbright grantee, she completed undergraduate work focused on sustainable economic development. Erika is a long-time board member of Permaculture Research Institute - Cold Climate, and reviews grants for the WCA Foundation. She resides in Minneapolis and enjoys gardening, scuba diving and travel.
Kathleen Houlihan Motzenbecker is the director of membership at the Minneapolis Downtown Council, the city’s top business association that is leading the coordination of the new Downtown 2025 Plan.Her policy experience was developed at the National Democratic Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, and the UN Development Programme.Kathleen founded the Center for Global Peace through Commerce at Dominican University and also served as the Illinois State Asia Pacific trade director.She is a fellow of the British-American Project and the U.S. Japan Leadership Program. In 2003, she was named a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum.She is fluent in Italian.
Kavon W. Nikrad is a new media strategist and risk analyst for individual markets. In 2006, Kavon founded the political website Race42008.com to follow the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. Under his leadership, Race42008.com grew into one of the largest and most vibrant right-of-center online communities. Professionally, he works as a risk analyst in individual markets for a leading national financial services company. A lifelong Minnesotan, Kavon is a graduate of St. Louis Park Senior High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Kenna Poppler manages community relations at the U.S. Bancorp Foundation. In her role she specializes in workplace giving and employee involvement programs, including the over $11 million national U.S. Bank United Way campaign and local volunteer initiatives. She is involved in community philanthropy through the Minneapolis Foundation’s Fourth Generation Fund, where she joins other mid-career professionals in local grant making. Kenna holds a bachelor’s degree in international studies and French from Hamline University. Her personal interests include intercultural communications, which she explores through extensive reading and international travel. She resides in Minneapolis with her husband.
Jim Porter is the chief financial officer of Apogee Enterprises, Inc., a provider of distinctive value-added glass solutions for enclosing commercial buildings and framing art. Prior to joining Apogee in 1997, Jim worked in a variety of financial positions at Rollerblade and Ecolab. Jim currently serves on the board of Project for Pride in Living. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s of business degree from the University of Iowa. He and his wife Elyse live in Minneapolis, and they have two children, Hannah and Samuel.
Kent Porter is a Major in the Minnesota National Guard, serving as a strategic planner, but has served many different duties since enlisting in1986, including a year in Iraq. He also worked for seven years as an educator in North Dakota. Kent holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics education. He currently serves on the membership board for the National Guard Association of the United States, is past president of the National Guard Association of Minnesota, and stewardship ministry leader at Farmington Lutheran Church. Kent lives in Farmington with his wife and two children.
Laurence Reszetar is an attorney at Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, LLP. He represents large and small businesses and individuals throughout the litigation process. Laurence graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2006. Before moving to Minnesota, he worked as a consultant and lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and as a research assistant at an international think tank in New York. Laurence is involved in a number of local and national civic organizations, including the Citizens League and No Labels. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and lives in the Como Park neighborhood of St. Paul with his wife Nancy, daughter Kellyn, and son Liam.
Christopher Voss is the CEO of RightSource Compliance, the national leader in comprehensive compliance solutions for the multifamily real estate industry. Over the past 11 years, Chris has helped hundreds of companies improve their operations by introducing best practices, implementing technology solutions, and outsourcing high-cost compliance functions, with the goal of providing a better quality of life for low and middle-income families. Chris resides in Minneapolis with his wife and son and enjoys fishing and golfing. He received his master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University and his bachelor’s degree in economics from The George Washington University.
Dave Wilsey is an assistant extension professor with University of Minnesota’s Extension Forestry Program, focusing on natural resource-based livelihoods and enterprise development. Dave also works closely with the Fond du Lac Band developing their Tribal College Extension program. Once a business analyst with Target, for much of the past decade Dave worked in Latin America as a researcher, consultant, and Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador’s sustainable agriculture and business program. Dave earned his doctorate from the University of Florida for research in Mexico on livelihoods and value chains. He has a master’s degree in conservation biology and a bachelor’s degree in business.
Katrina Zabinski is a supervising attorney at the Hennepin County District Court. She built and now manages a statewide “virtual” legal help center, and is a national speaker on using technology to improve access to justice. Previously, Katrina practiced law at a nonprofit Latino organization and did new product development in legal publishing. Born in Ecuador, Katrina has lived and studied in Italy and Spain. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and Italian from the University of Minnesota and her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law. She is a board member of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and she loves to travel.