In April, the CEHD Alumni Society recognizes rising alumni from across our college who have achieved early distinction in their careers, demonstrated emerging leadership, or shown exceptional volunteer service in their communities.
See the full list of our 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 CEHD Rising Alumni.
Grace Akukwe finds inspiration in her work when she’s solving complex development challenges. She has a Ph.D. in educational policy and administration with a focus on international education. Her career includes work on education reform in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Sudan; workforce development in Afghanistan; and a youth resilience program in the Eastern Caribbean. Currently, Grace works at Creative Associates, an international development organization, leading economic empowerment projects.
Valerie LeGrand Arendt has used her dual social work and public policy master’s degree to advocate for and promote the social work profession. Her leadership role in the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers involves career support for over 5,000 social workers in the state. Valerie didn’t want to forget her Humphrey School roots, so she created a network of university social work departments to share ideas about encouraging the next generation to be social justice advocates. Her direct service experience includes a focus on refugee and immigrant families, early childhood education, and affordable housing.
Rachel Boettcher is motivated to address the opportunity gap and other inequities faced by children and families. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education, plus a teaching license, led her to a career providing access to high quality early childhood programs for children living in poverty. In her current role at Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners, Rachel partners with school districts and other community agencies to increase investment in our earliest learners.
Soo-Yong Byun is a comparative and international development education Ph.D. graduate, and has made a mark in academia as an Associate Professor of Educational Theory and Policy at Penn State University. Though still early in his career, he is highly regarded for his interdisciplinary research using large, international data sets. His work focuses on areas where past research has been limited and thus not generalizable to other contexts.
Jenny Collins, a member of the Alumni Society Board, has had a long career in youth development with the Minneapolis Beacons Network and the University YMCA. Jenny is committed to empowering young people to create equitable schools and communities. In particular, she works to engage students from low-income communities, underperforming schools, and those who are first in their family to attend college.
Connor Cosgrove is a great example of the variety of careers our graduates pursue. Soon after transferring to the U of M and joining the football team, Connor was diagnosed with leukemia. Connor’s experience in treatment led to his idea of a t-shirt that allows easier access for a chemotherapy port. Today, he owns ComfPort, a company that produces multi-functional shirts that have an opening so cancer patients don’t have to remove their clothes to receive treatment. Along with fashionable and practical clothing, Connor hopes to build a community of support among his customers and their loved ones.
Jennifer Eik is focused on reducing the graduation gap for Latinos in our community. Jenni was hired at Roosevelt High School to launch a Spanish Heritage curriculum that uses culturally relevant pedagogy. Her courses focus on English as a second language at the same time as exploring Latino culture, history, and identity. Students who had felt marginalized discover ways to express themselves through spoken word, music, and community projects. Remarkably, Roosevelt High’s Hispanic student graduation rates increased last year by about 15 percentage points, and Roosevelt’s principal credits the Spanish Heritage program.
Özlem Ersin is associate dean and associate professor in the College of Health and Behavioral Studies at James Madison University. She began her career as an information technology specialist before becoming a health professions educator, and today leads inter-professional education and research initiatives. She has a goal to break down disciplinary and departmental barriers. A first-generation college graduate, Özlem attributes her passion for learning to her parents, who presented education as a non-negotiable expectation of their children.
Naomi Farabee earned a bachelor’s in engineering, but it was during her master’s degree in educational policy and administration that she found her calling to connect her Indigenous identity to her research and career. Throughout her time at the University of Minnesota, Naomi was involved in American Indian student organizations, and helped create the American Indian Faculty and Staff Association on campus. Today, Naomi is the Assistant Director of the McNair Scholars Program at Augsburg College, and is inspired when students overcome and remove barriers for themselves.
Ellen Iverson has achieved early career distinction as the Evaluation Director of the Carleton College Science Education Resource Center. She focuses on the type of academic cultures and teaching styles that influence student learning, with the goal to broaden access in science. She has led multiple NSF-funded evaluations of science curricula and faculty development programs, and was co-author of a book on the effects of faculty development on teaching and student learning. Ellen is in her eighth year on the Northfield Board of Education and volunteers with a local StriveTogether program.
Julie Koch is Associate Professor and Interim Head of the newly created School of Applied Health and Educational Psychology at Oklahoma State University. Her research focuses on school counseling, training of psychologists, and social justice. Along with a strong record of teaching, Julie is known as a helpful mentor, and offers pro bono counseling to transgender clients, schools and domestic abuse agencies. In 2015, she was a Fulbright scholar to Mongolia, where she applied her expertise in gender identity issues to assist the LBGT community there.
Sheila Koenig has a master’s in curriculum and instruction, and began her professional career as a teacher. While at South View Middle School in Edina, Shelia designed and implemented a district-wide 9th grade Pre-AP Language Arts course. In 2015, she changed careers and now works as a transition coordinator at Minnesota’s State Services for the Blind. In just a short time in her role, she has implemented a new statewide program for high school students who are blind, low vision or deaf/blind; and put on a career expo to connect students with employed adults for networking and mentorship.
Holley Locher House is chief of staff for the University of Minnesota College of Design, and is recognized in the college as a champion of advancing diversity. Holley has a master’s and Ph.D. in educational policy and administration, and says her time in CEHD taught her to see, question, and challenge institutional discrimination. Within the College of Design, she has instituted new hiring practices and created a stronger community to promote inclusion. Holley has also become a campus leader for equity issues, participating in the Diversity Community of Practice and guiding cross-unit conversations.
Jennifer McIntyre, who has a certificate in PK-12 administration, is the executive director of special education at Bloomington Public Schools. She pushes for high expectations for all students with disabilities, while recommending improvements in the district that will help close the achievement gap. Jennifer is highly respected for her active listening skills and strong relationships with parents. She works to build bridges with families about how to meet their children’s needs, and advocates for them at the district level to enact systemic changes.
Christen Pentek has a bachelor’s in youth studies and is currently pursuing a master’s in social work. She has a focus on improving programs for young people, and wants to encourage youth not to settle for anything less than the best relationships and opportunities. Christen works at the Search Institute, which disseminates research to partners working with young people. She emphasizes experiential learning and reflection to highlight what’s important to youth.
David Roseborough has been on the faculty of St. Catherine and St. Thomas universities since he earned his Ph.D. in social work in 2004. He is a highly regarded expert in clinical mental health, and also maintains a practice working with community mental health providers. David has earned recognition for his research and teaching, and is a longtime research consultant for a psychiatric clinic in St. Paul. He also is known for his commitment to social justice and advocacy, particularly within and for the LGBT community.
Hayley Tompkins, who has a master’s in youth development leadership, is committed to creating positive experiences for young people. Hayley works at the Beacons Network, building the capacity of youth organizations and schools. She began her career at Beacons as a youth worker, and rose up the ladder to her current position, which works at a city-wide level. The highlight of her year is a leadership retreat for 150 elementary and middle school students. At a regional level, Hayley leads efforts to align after-school and STEM learning; connect youth workers to professional development; and promote data-driven continuous improvement by providers.