Humphrey School News

Minneapolis Community Leader Sandy Vargas Joins Humphrey School

January 20, 2017
Sandy Vargas

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is pleased to announce that longtime Twin Cities community leader Sandy Vargas joined the School this week as senior executive leadership fellow.

Vargas, who served as president and CEO of the Minneapolis Foundation from 2007 until her retirement in 2016, will help shape the Humphrey School’s engagement initiatives, with a particular focus on communities of color and new immigrants. She will also work on strategic initiatives related to student recruiting. 

“We are delighted to have Sandy join the leadership team at the Humphrey School,” said Dean Eric Schwartz. “Her passionate advocacy for underrepresented communities will help us be more fully engaged with the Twin Cities community as we work to identify creative and innovative solutions to society’s complex challenges.”

Vargas was described as a “community connector” during her decade-long tenure as the head of the Minneapolis Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations that supports a wide range of community needs.

"I am excited to join the Humphrey School at this important point in time,” said Vargas. “This outstanding school of public affairs is a strategic asset in our community to engage students, organizations and community in the critical work of protecting and expanding the ideals of democracy and leadership."

During her time at the foundation, Vargas oversaw the management of $700 million in assets; the administration of more than 1,000 charitable funds created by individuals, families, and businesses; and the distribution of more than $45 million in grants each year—solidifying the foundation’s reputation as an advocate of social, racial, and economic equity.

A highly regarded community leader, Vargas received the “Outstanding Citizen” award in 2012 from the Caux Round Table, a global network of business leaders. More recently, she received the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal “Women in Business Award” for her leadership in the broader Twin Cities community.

Schwartz said Vargas will initially focus on supporting the School’s Center for Women, Gender, and Public Policy.  “She will also engage in work with our Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center and its focus on human services and training on issues of equity and diversity, and with the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice,” said Schwartz.

Prior to joining the Minneapolis Foundation, Vargas served as Hennepin County administrator, the top executive position in Hennepin County government. In that role, she managed a $2 billion budget and 12,000 employees. She also held positions at the Minnesota Department of Economic Development, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Vargas is active in several Twin Cities organizations and serves on the local boards of St. Catherine University, Minnesota Comeback, and Wallin Education Partnership.  She also is an active member of the national boards of Independent Sector, 50CAN, and Hispanics in Philanthropy.

Vargas was a Bush Fellow, and is a recipient of WomenVenture’s Pioneer Award in 2009, and the Medal of Honor from St. Catherine's University in 2010.

A native Minnesotan, Vargas earned her Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the College of St. Catherine and holds a Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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