2011-2012 Upper Midwest Fellowship Alums


Amanda Stitt | Director, Michigan Voice

Amanda Stitt is the director of Michigan Voice, the c-3 collaborative whose mission is to engage underrepresented or socially responsible voters in the democratic process and to establish collective action around a common issue agenda.  Over 80 state and local organizations are a part of Michigan Voice.  Amanda has played an integral role in many of the successful Michigan campaigns over the last several years, including the elections of Governor Granholm and Senator Stabenow.  Most recently, she served as the Constituency Vote Director for the President Obama’s Michigan campaign in 2008, leading a team of 12 outreach staff who organized leaders and activists from diverse communities across the state.  Prior to that, she ran a training program for activists and candidates for the Granholm Leadership Fund. As a student at Kalamazoo College, Amanda became active in politics when she organized students across Michigan to oppose the “Roger’s Law” bill that disenfranchised college students. 




Anne Summers | CEO, The Brico Fund

Anne Summers is the CEO of The Brico Fund, an LLC based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  With 15 years of nonprofit management experience in development and communications, Anne formerly served as the Vice President of Development at Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and the Vice President of Development at the YWCA.  Prior , she worked as a legislative aide in the Wisconsin State Assembly (Peter Barca, D-Kenosha).  An Illinois native and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, she also holds a Master’s of Business Administration degree from Cardinal Stritch University.  Currently, she is the board chair of State Voices, a board member of Progress Now, Co- Chair of the State Infrastructure Funders Table of the Funders Committee for Civic Participation, a board member of the Donors Forum of Wisconsin, and a member of the Planning Commission for the Village of Whitefish Bay.



Bao Vang | President & CEO, Hmong American Partnership

Bao Vang, is currently the President/CEO of Hmong American Partnership, a multi-million dollar nonprofit agency serving the Hmong American community in Saint Paul, MN.  Ms. Vang has more than a decade of leadership and management experience in business, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. Previous to her work at HAP, she held management and leadership positions at various levels of State Government. Bao’s financial management and leadership skills has also been put to use in her businesses in tax/accounting, assisted living, and family trust funds.  She has served on the board of various national and local task forces, including: the MN Welfare Reform Non-Citizenship Committee; the Board of Directors of Tubman Family Alliance and the Centre for Social Change. Ms. Vang holds a M.A. in Public Administration and Management and a B.A. in Business Administration/Accounting. She is a 1999 Bush Fellow, and was listed as in the 100 Most Influential People to Watch in Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. 



Bob Allison | Director of Government Affairs, SEIU Healthcare Michigan

Bob Allison is the Director of Government Affairs for SEIU Healthcare Michigan.  He has been involved in politics and government relations work for more than a decade.  Before joining SEIU in 2003, Bob served as spokesman for former U.S. Congressman David Bonior, working in Washington, D.C. and Michigan on legislative and electoral projects – including Bonior’s 2002 run for governor.  Prior to that, he worked for six years as a newspaper reporter, covering the state Capitol and local governments for several Gannett News Service outlets in Michigan and Florida.  He won Associated Press and Gannett awards for his work. Bob began his SEIU career by helping lead a four-year effort to organize 42,000 home health care workers – the single largest union organizing victory in Michigan since Ford Motor Co. employees joined the UAW in 1941.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Michigan State University.



Charity Hicks | Co-Coordinator, Detroit Food Justice Task Force

Charity Hicks is the secretary of DBCFSN and one of the founding members.  She is also the coordinator of the D-Town Annual Harvest Festival every fall. She studies and works on spirituality, medicinal herbs, and Afrikan traditional society/culture. She has her own consulting firm called Elekevu Consulting.  Her most recent work over the past several years has been as a Clinical Research Associate/ Project Coordinator position with a longitudinal health disparities study at the University of Michigan. She has facilitated and trained field listers, interviewers, and data collectors, conducted numerous focus groups, and led community engagement on the research project all around Detroit. Charity currently is serving with several groups in Detroit which include: Detroit Public Schools Health Council, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Grocery Store Coalition Steering Committee, Detroit Food Policy Council, People’s Water Board Detroit, Future’s Taskforce of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit and Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit. She is a Master Gardener through MSU Wayne County Extension (2002) and a member of the Sierra Club and several other environmental groups.



Christine Neumann-Ortiz | Executive Director, Voces de la Frontera

Christine Neumann-Ortiz is the founding Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera.  Ms. Neumann-Ortiz is recognized as a national leader in immigration reform, serving on the IOC Steering Committee of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and featured in national interviews on NPR, Democracy Now!, CNN, and a contributor to Huffington Post. Through her leadership, Voces has grown from a small, grass roots worker center to a state and national leader in the immigrant rights movement.Voces is the largest Latino membership based organization in Wisconsin.  Since 2006, Voces has mobilized nearly half a million in mass marches, the largest of which was 100,000 people on May 1, 2011.  Voces has won several systemic changes including suspension of Wisconsin’s social security no-match letters and passage of in-state tuition for undocumented students. Ms. Neumann–Ortiz earned her Masters Degree in US/ Chicano History at the University of Texas- Austin and her Bachelor of Art degree in English at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. 



Dawud Walid | Executive Director, CAIR-MI

Dawud Walid is currently the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), a chapter of America’s largest advocacy and civil liberties organization for Muslims. Walid also serves as assistant Imam at Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit, MI, advisory board member of the East West Link News, and board trustee for the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers’ Rights Committee. Walid has spoken at approximately twenty institutions of higher learning about Islam and interfaith dialogue including Harvard University and the University of the Virgin Islands.  He has also presented on prominent panel discussions with international leaders and academics such as a panel discussion on African-American and American Muslim relations at the 2008 Congressional Black Caucus Convention with the Reverend Jesse Jackson to the 2009 and 2010 Malian Peace & Tolerance Conferences held in Bamako, Mali, which were attended by religious scholars from twelve different countries.Walid has been interviewed, quoted, and published in numerous media outlets including Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC World Service Radio, FOX, National Public Radio, the New York Times, Saudi TV 2, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Walid also served in the United States Navy under honorable conditions earning two United States Navy & Marine Corp Achievement medals.




Denise Brogan-Kator | Executive Director, Equality Michigan

Denise Brogan-Kator brings a mix of extensive business experience and more than fifteen years of activism to her position as Executive Director at Equality Michigan. A Navy veteran, Ms. Brogan-Kator prepared for her business career by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master of Business Administration. From there, her career grew through a series of promotions until she became the Vice President of Finance with a Florida medical products company. Ms. Brogan-Kator’s career was almost derailed when she was summarily fired, despite consistent exemplary performance reviews, after her employer learned of her gender identity after hiring a private investigator to tail her. Brogan-Kator was then fired from two subsequent positions when those employers discovered her transgender status. Each time, she was told that under current law she had no legal recourse. Fortunately, after these experiences Ms. Brogan-Kator found an accepting employer in an independently-owned Florida software company. Ms. Brogan-Kator moved to Michigan to attend the University of Michigan law school in 2004. She has been active in Michigan’s non-profit LGBT organizations. She has served on the boards of the Jim Toy Community Center and the former Triangle Foundation.




Diana Copeland | Executive Director, East Michigan Environmental Action Council

Diana Copeland, Executive Director for East Michigan Environmental Action Council, has an extensive background in environmental justice advocacy, environmental project management, and community organizing. Mrs. Copeland earned her BS in Environmental Science and Tribal Natural Resource Policy at The Evergreen State College, watershed management at University of Washington Program in Streamside Studies, and her MS in Environmental Justice at the University of Michigan. She worked in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, connecting community leaders to solve environmental and health challenges in Rio’s favelas (autonomous communities) before coming to EMEAC. She has been very active in forming coalitions between environmental organizations, community and environmental justice groups to win environmental justice and health victories.




Diana J. Nucera | Co-Director, Allied Media Projects

Diana J. Nucera, Teaching artist, accomplished cellist, and Media Maven has been teaching and working in the media arts for the past thirteen years. Her expertise crosses many borders encompassing education, video installation, science and technology, and community organizing. Diana builds multi-media creative centers where ever she goes.  She developed and has been organizing the hands on media lab at the Allied Media Conference for the past 5 years. She is currently Co-Director of Allied Media Projects, a member of  the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, and on the leadership team of the Detroit Media Economy Collaborative building media arts and technology based programming in Detroit.




Hussein Samatar | Executive Director, African Development Center

Hussein M. Samatar is the Founder and Executive Director of the African Development Center, an entrepreneurial nonprofit working within the African communities of Minnesota to start and sustain successful businesses, build wealth, and promote community reinvestment. In this role, he has created several culturally-competent alternative finance products and is frequently engaged in discussions with financial, governmental, and other community institutions on the topics of building wealth in emerging markets.  Previously, Samatar was a commercial banker with Wells Fargo and Norwest Banks. Mr. Samatar was elected in November 2010 to serve on the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education. A Humphrey Institute Policy Fellow in 2003-2004, German Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2007, and Achieving Excellence in Community Development  Fellow at Harvard 2010-2012, Mr. Samatar also holds an M.B.A. from St. Thomas University and speaks five languages.




Jason Sidener | Political Director, AFSCME Council 40

Jason Sidener currently works for AFSCME Council 40 as their Political Action Representative and is based in Madison.  AFSCME is the nation’s largest public employee union and Council 40 represents over 32,000 county and municipal employees in Wisconsin.  Jason is a veteran of dozens of local, state and federal political campaigns in Wisconsin and in other states. When not kicking ass for the working class, Jason enjoys good scotch and bad beer.




Jayme Montgomery Baker | Wisconsin State Director, League of Young Voters

Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Jayme Montgomery Baker got into Social Justice work because of a sincere desire to change the conditions of her community.  Since 2006, she has been a member of the League of Young Voter Edu. Fund/Campaign Against Violence (a community organization dedicated to helping young people become change agents in their neighborhoods and community) and has been instrumental in several campaigns including voter registration drives that registered and turned out thousands of people, organizing coalitions and issue-based candidate forums, and raising tens of thousands of dollars for programming.  However, her passion is in training.  She is gifted in facilitation, public speaking and creating and implementing curriculum for various types of trainings. She believes through building positive relationship, organized power and “bringing love back” we (as a community) can transform the world.




June Noronha | Senior Manager, Native Nations Team, Bush Foundation, Minnesota

June Noronha is Senior Manager with the Native Nations Team at the Bush Foundation, Minnesota, which supports the self-determination and nation-building for 23 nations that share the same geography as MN, ND and SD. June has also served as the Strategic Officer at the Bush Foundation, where she helped designed a new strategic direction for the Foundation. Previously, she was Associate Dean for Multicultural Education at St. Catherine University, responsible for policy planning and program development on diversity and international issues on campus. She served on that faculty and on the faculty at the University of Minnesota and Macalester College in Minnesota.  She has also held executive positions in the St. Paul Public Schools, the Minneapolis City Coordinator’s Office and the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota. June has held several regional and national leadership positions in the United States in the field of international and multicultural education.  She presently serves on the Board of Trustees of World Education Services (US and Canada), National Philanthropic Trust (PA), and the Minnesota Council on Foundations. June has received numerous national awards for her leadership and accomplishments in community development and international education.  Regionally, she has received the Governor of Minnesota award for contributions to the Hispanic community; named one of the Centennial 100 who has most influenced the St. Catherine University, MN, and was awarded a Distinguished Alumna Citizen Award at Macalester College, MN.




Kerry Schumann | Executive Director, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

Kerry Schumann is Executive Director of Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters and a leader in Wisconsin’s progressive community. Much of Kerry’s work since graduating from UW-Madison in 1994 has involved innovations in citizen engagement work, including spending a year doing an analysis of the Wisconsin conservation community and using that analysis to develop a plan for building long-term power for conservationists.  That plan is now fully integrated into WLCV and has led to many victories for Wisconsin’s environment.  As Executive Director, Kerry develops top-notch staff, keeps the ship on course, raises money, and works with WLCV’s fantastic Board of Directors. WLCV is a statewide organization working to protect public health and natural resources in Wisconsin by electing pro-conservation candidates and enhancing the capacity of the conservation movement.




Linda Honold | Executive Director, Wisconsin Voices

Since September 2009 Linda Honold has served as Executive Director of Wisconsin Voices, a 501c3 nonprofit nonpartisan organization, provides support and resources to build capacity and leadership to this dynamic network of more than 65 organizations. The Wisconsin Voices network is reviving civic participation in support of our commonly held values of equal opportunity, security, freedom, progress, and a government that works for all of us. Participating organizations come from across issue, constituency, and geographic boundaries. Wisconsin Voices weaves together connections to enhance capacities for greater social impact, increased capacities, and improved effectiveness. For 15 years Linda led a strategic and organizational development consultancy focusing the development of high-performing organizations that empowered employees. From 2001-2005 she served as Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and from 2006 – 2009 was Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. Linda holds a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from the Fielding Graduate University, an M.S. in Industrial Relations from University of Wisconsin-Madison and B.A. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.




Liz Doyle | Policy Director, TakeAction Minnesota

Liz Doyle is the Policy Director for TakeAction Minnesota.  Liz’s primary focus at TakeAction has been the creation of the organization’s health care program, which fights for protecting and expanding access to health care in Minnesota, and is now recognized as one of the leading state health advocacy programs in the country.  Liz has led and co-led successful campaigns to expand access to health coverage for low-income children in Minnesota, create a public option for children’s health coverage in the state, and reinstate secure health coverage for 35,000 very low-income Minnesota adults. Before joining TakeAction Minnesota, Liz was the Policy Director for the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.




Mary Cathryn Ricker | President, St. Paul Federation of Teachers

Mary Cathryn Ricker was elected president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, the union representing over 3,600 teachers and educational assistants in St. Paul Public Schools, in 2005 and re-elected in 2007, 2009 and 2011. Before becoming president, Mary Cathryn was a middle school English/Language Arts teacher in St. Cloud, Minnesota; Camas, Washington, Seoul, South Korea and at Cleveland Junior High in St. Paul Minnesota. She earned her National Board Certification in Early Adolescent English/Language Arts in 2004 and was selected to be one of eight teachers nationwide featured in the Annenberg Foundation’s Write in the Middle television and professional development series for middle school teachers. Mary Cathryn was a 2002 fellow and currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Minnesota Writing Project and has served as the Middle School chair of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English. She has presented best practice teaching ideas locally, regionally and nationally throughout her career. In 2005 Mary Cathryn was selected as one of 10 national finalists for the NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. Currently Mary Cathryn Ricker serves on the Education Minnesota Governing Board, as the board president of the Education Minnesota Foundation for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, as a delegate to the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, and on the American Federation of Teachers K-12 Teacher Program and Policy Council.  She lives in St. Paul with her husband, Bob Cudahy-an ELL teacher, and her children Maggie and Michael.




Naryan Leazer | President, Milwaukee Chapter of the Black Alliance for Education Options

Naryan is an alumnus of Marquette University’s TRiO Upward Bound (UB) and Student Support Services (SSS) Programs. Through his previous work as an Upward Bound Director, College Recruiter, and College Counselor and as a College Access Outreach Consultant he has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in helping young people get to college and get through college. He has shared this wealth of knowledge and experience with the college access community and the broader local community. Naryan has presented at several state and national conferences and has often appeared as a panelist or keynote speaker at several community events. He has been actively involved in local, state, regional and national associations and is a recent graduate of the emerging leader development program of The Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program personnel (MAEOPP) and the African American Leadership Program (AALP) at Cardinal Stritch University. In his previous role as Director of the Stein Scholars Program at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM) he led the launch of the Stein Scholar Program which is a comprehensive pre-college initiative that ultimately will assist over 400 low-income, first generation youth in achieving a college diploma. He currently serves as president of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (MCBAEO).




Niel Ritchie | Executive Director, League of Rural Voters

Before joining the League of Rural Voters, Niel spent 14 years with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy serving in a variety of roles, including eight years as a national organizer responsible for outreach and networking among U.S. farm and non-farm groups. He has managed statewide and Congressional campaigns in the Midwest, and is the author of numerous articles and op/eds on food, farm, and rural economic policy. Niel is currently on the board of directors of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership - a network that helps communities seeking to build, maintain or expand their water and wastewater infrastructure, the Alliance for Aviation Across America - a nonprofit coalition focused on the aviation needs of small and rural communities, and Main Street Project - a grassroots community building, media justice, and economic development organization. In addition, he serves on the steering committee of the National Rural Assembly - a movement of people and organizations devoted to building a stronger, more vibrant rural America.




Peggy Flanagan | Director of External Affairs and Native American Leadership Program Director, Wellstone Action

Peggy Flanagan is a dynamic teacher, trainer, and community and political organizer who is enrolled in the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and is a member of the Maiingan Dodem (Wolf Clan). Peggy directs the Native American Leadership Program at Wellstone Action-the country’s largest progressive training center-and also serves as adjunct faculty for the George Washington University Native American Political Leadership Program. Recently named as one of the top 100 most influential people in Minnesota politics by Campaigns & Elections magazine, Peggy was the First Americans GOTV Coordinator in Minnesota for the 2008 Barack Obama Campaign for Change and Al Franken for Senate campaign, and served as the Native American Community Coordinator for the Minnesota Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004. She was elected to the Minneapolis School Board at age 24 and was the first Native American and youngest individual to serve on that body. Peggy lives in Minneapolis with her partner, Tim and their dog, Reuben.




Phyllis Hill | Lead Organizer, ISAIAH

Phyllis Hill is the Lead Organizer for ISAIAH and works in the Minneapolis-Richfield-Bloomington Regions. She has been with ISAIAH since 2008. Prior to her work as an organizer, Phyllis worked at Beloit College in Beloit, WI as the Ronald E. McNair Coordinator, a federally funded program that assisted students that were low-income, first generation, and persons of color to pursue graduate school education. Phyllis received her BA in History at Georgia Southern University and MA in African American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.




Robert Kraig | Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

Dr. Robert Kraig , Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, has played a significant role in the Wisconsin public policy arena in the areas of healthcare, good jobs, communications strategies, and building progressive power.  He is especially known for developing and leading innovative strategies to make health care reform a top issue.  In 2009 the national organization for health care consumers, Families USA, presented Robert with its “Consumer Health Advocate of the Year Award.” Kraig earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, holds a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, and an M.A. from the University of Georgia.  He is the author of a well regarded academic book, Woodrow Wilson and the Lost World of the Oratorical Statesman (Texas A&M Press).  The book topped a Wall Street Journal list of the five best books on presidential rhetoric to read in preparation for the Obama administration.




Shar Knutson | President, Minnesota AFL-CIO

Shar Knutson is the new president of the 300,000 member Minnesota AFL-CIO. Knutson, the union group’s first woman president, was elected yesterday by the state federation’s general board. She succeeds current President Ray Waldron who will retire Oct. 1, after nine years as president. Knutson, a member of AFSCME Local 1842, says she will continue the Minnesota AFL-CIO’s “mission of securing social and economic justice for Minnesota’s working people.” She has played an active role in the successful campaign to increase labor’s voice in local, state and national elections and says she will focus on growing political strength of Minnesota’s union members on electing state and federal officials who will put working people first. Along leading the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, Knutson is a regional representative advising the Executive Board of the national AFL-CIO. She also serves as president of the St. Paul Labor Studies and Resource Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and promoting community debate about social and economic justice.