We regret to announce that the 2020 Rising Alumni program is cancelled. Knowing that many of our honorees would need to travel to the University of Minnesota to accept, we have decided to cancel the 2020 award and the public event due to issues related to COVID-19.
All submitted nominations will be considered for next year's award. Please stay tuned for plans for the 2021 award and event.
Austin Stair Calhoun is currently Chief of Staff for the U of M Office of Medical Education, making her responsible for strategic operations and working with school leadership on new initiatives. Many of her past roles involved promoting access to technology for the common good, including Director of E-learning and Digital Strategy for the School of Kinesiology. Austin has a commitment to social justice, using her research findings to create awareness and policies around inclusive online content. She believes it’s important for professionals to “show up, follow up, and raise your hand up,” and enjoys problem-solving and innovating at work. Austin credits her time in CEHD with providing interdisciplinary opportunities that helped her create a unique educational experience as well as a strong network.
Zachary Casey is an Assistant Professor at Rhodes College. He was hired to develop the educational studies program at Rhodes which, when he arrived, offered only an undergraduate minor. With Zac’s leadership, educational studies now offers dozens of majors across three tracks. He also led the effort to create teacher education programs at Rhodes that focus on socially just approaches to teaching and learning in urban, working-class school and community settings. Last year, Zac helped launch a new master’s degree–just the second master’s degree in the college’s history. His first book, A Pedagogy of Anticapitalist Antiracism, won the Outstanding Book Award from the Society of Professors of Education. Zac says he loves being in the classroom with folks who are working to get smarter together.
Sousada Chidthachack Grande is the Assistant Principal at Ascension Catholic School, and has a PhD in curriculum and instruction. Sousada was born in a Thai refugee camp, and did not return to the country until almost 30 years later, when she taught mathematics in rural Thailand during her doctoral program. She was driven to focus her research on closing the math achievement gap for English language learners, and traveled to several countries to present her research during her time at CEHD. She speaks four languages–English, Laotian, Spanish, and Thai–which helps her connect to students. When she came to CEHD, she wanted to work on projects that would greatly increase access to mathematics for marginalized students of color, because her own journey helped her understand that mathematics equals opportunities.
Anitra Cottledge is the Director of the U of M Women’s Center. During her time as a graduate student in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, Anitra conducted research on African American women in higher education administration. Today, in her director role, Anitra carries out that passion by advocating for gender equity in ways that impact the campus on a day-to-day basis as well as at an institutional level. Beyond filling a gap in representation as a black woman who is in a leadership role in a women’s center, Anitra has made sure to keep the door open once she stepped through. She founded a women of color student conference, reinvigorated faculty and staff affinity groups, and is a mentor and resource for others.
Ellen Doering has a master’s in social work and is currently a Children’s Mental Health Case Manager at the Washburn Center for Children. In her role, she provides mental health assessments, develops service plans, and coordinates care for clients and their families. She says her CEHD program provided a strong knowledge base and clinical background, which allows her to continue learning and growing every day. She still considers her field instructor, Heidi Presslein, as a mentor. Ellen is inspired by her clients as they make progress, as well as her coworkers who keep her motivated. Ellen is a board member for Riverton Community Housing, McVay Youth Partnership, and the CEHD Alumni Society.
Soon after completing his doctorate in comparative and international development education, Mohammed Elmeski was appointed as a Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research, and has a passion for increasing literacy among the most disadvantaged populations. He currently focuses on evaluation and technical support for educational programs in Africa and the Middle East, and is also working on a project to improve education for children in Haiti. In addition to his work responsibilities and continued research agenda, Mohammed is a volunteer for the Moroccan Center for Civic Education, building networks to create stronger communities and global citizenship, particularly for youth in marginalized countries. He describes the U of M as a “global powerhouse” and will continue to work with the institution to strengthen ties between American people and the rest of the world.
Kelsey Funk is a teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students for Intermediate School District 917 in Dakota County. She has a master’s in special education/deaf education. In just five years, Kelsey has implemented several programmatic and technology initiatives to connect families and recognize student successes. She started a monthly newsletter, launched a “Closed Captioning is Cool” T-shirt fundraiser, plans after-school events, and utilizes technology such as FlipGrid to combat student isolation. Kelsey believes that, especially in deaf education, we need to provide non-biased training about communication methods and access, which often can be sensitive and emotional topics for students and families. She is constantly reminded that her students with hearing loss are capable of incredible things.
Kara Galvin, who has a master’s in counseling and student personnel psychology, is the Director of International and Graduate Programs at the U of M Law School. Kara’s background in counseling, advising, and advocacy for international, immigrant/refugee, and underrepresented students provides a strong foundation for her work. At the Law School, she manages international exchange partnerships, leads strategic planning, and administers the master’s and doctoral programs. Outside of work, she is an active volunteer in her school district. Along with discovering her skills in statistics, Kara says her CEHD degree provided lifelong friendships as well as knowledge she uses every day. She believes grit, interpersonal communication skills, and a good sense of humor are absolutely necessary for any professional.
Devon Gilchrist is a Human Services Program Consultant–Foster Care Policy Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). In that role, Devon leads efforts to improve child welfare practice and make meaningful effective and sustainable change at the state level. He also works closely with Minnesota counties to facilitate dialogue, training, technical assistance, and planning efforts to improve their practice to address ongoing challenges that have affected children. He is committed to reducing disparities for children of color in out-of-home care in Minnesota, and has been a champion to ensure that agency practices are culturally responsive and appropriate. He has also been an advocate for improving practice when it comes to engaging fathers of children who are involved in child welfare services. His volunteer service includes starting the Men of African Heritage Employee Resource Group at DHS to provide mentorship and support to colleagues.
Brynja Halldórsdóttir Gudjonsson is a Professor at the University of Iceland School of Education. Brynja is a graduate of the Comparative and International Development Education program. Her research focuses on immigrant students and how they experience higher education, and how immigrants access resources and build community. She chairs the Department of International Studies in Education and serves as undergraduate student coordinator. Brynja’s research is inspired by her experience in Icelandic society as a child with two nationalities–her mother was Irish. She is currently working on a project focused on public discourse about immigrants, including looking at hate speech in the comment sections of online news sites.
Clark Hoelscher intentionally seeks to build community, connection, and joy through their professional and personal efforts. Clark, who has a doctorate in curriculum and instruction, is a Program Specialist for the Out For Equity program in the Saint Paul Public Schools. In that role, they direct school-based LGBTQ+ programs, and work in partnership with LGBTQ+ youth-serving agencies to build leadership opportunities. Clark started a parent advisory council, worked to include an item on gender identity for the Minnesota Student Survey, and co-authored the SPPS Gender Inclusion Policy and Procedures–leading to the nation’s first public school all-gender, multi-stall bathrooms. Their volunteer work includes serving on the national advisory council for GLSEN, participating in the Southside Family School Equity Committee, and joining environmental efforts in South Minneapolis. Clark is grateful to work with so many young people who are changing the world for themselves and others.
Courtney Holmes is a Special Education Supervisor for Osseo Area Schools, and is described as an advocate of humanity, a strong proponent of individualism, and a formidable adversary of racist practices. Courtney is one of the few female, African American educators and administrators among many white men and women serving communities of African American learners and others of African descent. She is a long-time advocate for students with disabilities and a strong voice in overcoming racism in schools. Courtney’s work in managing the behavior of students with disabilities has evolved into training other professionals how to use culturally responsive strategies and join with parents in a partnership approach to working with struggling students. She has developed useful tools for teachers and provided extensive professional development in early intervention, culturally appropriate communication and instruction, conflict management, and behavioral intervention.
Sung Tae Jang got his PhD in education policy and leadership just last year, and was nominated by his advisor, Nicola Alexander. Today, he is an Assistant Professor at the Education University of Hong Kong. Wherever he goes, Sung Tae advocates for equitable opportunities and has created a more inclusive school environment where everyone has a voice, regardless of their race/ethnicity, gender, class, religious, and sexual orientation. He provides significant mentoring and support to young children who may feel marginalized from the dominant group in society, and his current research aims to improve educational equity for underrepresented students in Hong Kong. Sung Tae’s experience in CEHD sparked his teaching interest in social justice, and inspired him to focus on research that advocates for students with marginalized identities.
Emily KedrowskiEmily Kedrowski has a master’s in special education/deaf and hard of hearing, as well as two administrative licenses. She is an itinerant teacher for students who are deaf and hard of hearing for Saint Paul Public Schools, and works with more than 20 students in kindergarten through high school who have hearing loss. She teaches academic subjects, compensatory skills for hearing loss, and transition-related skills, as well as provides vital social-emotional and communication support. Emily is a mentor for newly hired teachers, and writes a monthly newsletter for general education teachers to learn more about hearing loss and how it impacts students in the classroom. She also has advanced the SPPS captioning initiative, and collaborates with teachers to ensure that the videos they use are captioned.
Joshua LupinekJoshua Lupinek is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has a PhD in sport management. At the University of Alaska, Josh has developed a full Bachelors of Sport and Recreation Business degree program based on student interest and industry needs. His research interests include sport marketing and social network analysis. He founded Alaska’s first virtual reality research lab, where scholars from all disciplines can develop experimental uses for VR equipment. He also has been working with rural, off-the-road system, American Indian–Alaska Native communities to repurpose virtual reality gaming equipment for public health uses. This project has been funded by the National Institutes of Health because of its potential to impact health disparities. Josh believes even as we become more immersed in technology and utilize data-driven results, it’s still important to be able to sit down and discuss an issue over coffee.
Currently serving as the U of M Associate Vice Provost for Student Success, LeeAnn Melin has held a variety of positions on campus related to undergraduate education and student engagement. She has touched the lives of thousands of students during her time at the U through her strategic leadership of key undergraduate programs. In what she calls her “dream job,” LeeAnn is responsible for various support services and retention efforts aimed at improving the retention and graduation of all students, including the enhancement of academic advising, learning support, and multicultural student initiatives. She gets to create, innovate, problem solve, and collaborate with a talented group of professionals all working together to make a difference in students’ lives.
Chelsea Petreeis the first Parent and Families Program Director at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York. Chelsea was hired by RIT for her role to establish communications and outreach to parents of RIT students. She developed a monthly newsletter, changed the campus culture to view parents as partners, and started engagement opportunities for families such as a study abroad trip and a parent-created cookbook. In addition, she has integrated programming around deaf culture to be more inclusive of RIT’s large deaf community. Chelsea says the Department of Family Social Science taught her how to think critically and creatively, use research to better understand the world, and consider all aspects of family diversity in her work.
In her role as Assistant Professor of Health Services Research and Principal Health Services Analyst at the Mayo Clinic, Jennifer Ridgeway is committed to making sure that advances in medicine and information about best-evidence care are available to everyone. She was nominated by Stuart Yeh, her advisor in her evaluation studies doctoral program. Jennifer’s research aims to identify factors that promote or hinder the application and practice of evidence-based medicine, leading to significant improvements in effectiveness, efficiency, and equity in healthcare outcomes. She has established herself as one of the leading experts on the topic of knowledge and practice dissemination within health networks, with a focus on the disproportionate impact of medical errors and omissions on the quality of care received by vulnerable low-income and minority client populations. Jennifer says she benefits from her CEHD degree because it provided both practical experience and an educational foundation.
Kablia Thao is the Director of National Engagement for the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. In her role, Kablia engages 27 national alumni networks from New York to Los Angeles and supports local alumni volunteers who are bringing Gophers together. On campus, she worked with admissions to strategically leverage alumni in recruiting geographically diverse students to the University. She also leads the Alumni Association’s annual Day of Service, when alumni in the Twin Cities, across the nation, and around the world are encouraged to volunteer in their communities. Kablia is a proud first-generation Hmong American and the first in her family to receive a master’s degree. She says CEHD and her human resource development degree provided a life-changing student experience that set her up to succeed in an ever-changing global society.
An expert in restorative justice, Kaaren Williamsen is a national leader in developing approaches to prevent and respond effectively to sexual assault on college campuses. Kaaren’s career is full of “firsts”–she was the founding director of the Gender and Sexuality Center at Carleton College, the first full-time Title Nine Coordinator at Swarthmore College, and even helped establish Just Food Co-op in Northfield. She is currently the Director of the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, where she provides leadership on sexual misconduct prevention education, crisis intervention, advocacy, referral programs, and services. Kaaren was nominated by her education policy and administration doctoral advisor, Rebecca Ropers. Kaaren says her CEHD education helped develop the muscles and skills to both focus closely on a situation or individual, while thinking broadly on a policy level.
Doua Yang works at Metropolitan State University as the TRIO Upward Bound Program Coordinator. Her work and leadership is essential for the success of TRIO because of her commitment to equity work, college access, and student achievement. She plays an important role in making sure high schoolers are ready and prepared for college, both academically and socially. She also consults on workshops and presentations about what is culturally sensible and acceptable in working with students from similar backgrounds as hers. Doua was the first female in her family of 15 to graduate from college when she finished her degree in family social science. She has fond campus memories of doing community-based research with a faculty member and being active in the Hmong Minnesota Student Association. Today, Doua continues making her community a better place through political advocacy and doing all she can to ensure access to higher education.
Mary Yeboah is the Assistant Director of Graduate Student Life at Wheaton College in Illinois. She was nominated by Christopher Johnstone, who Mary describes as her most influential professor. Mary says one of the most meaningful benefits of her Leadership for Intercultural and International Education doctorate program was the transformation of her understanding of race and racism in schools and societies. Her research focused on segregation of teachers in Chicago Public Schools and the racism they faced in their work. She drew on her CEHD experience when she launched the first multicultural graduate student life component of the Graduate Student Life Office at Wheaton. In her role, Mary’s primary responsibility is to ensure graduate students are provided with the support they need to be successful. She says she gets excited about the opportunity to help create a school culture where every aspect of that culture supports a sense of belonging for each person.