• 2014 WIPS Speakers

    Keynote Speakers

    Dr. Bernadeia H. Johnson

    Superintendent, Minneapolis Public Schools

    WIPS_JohnsonDr. Johnson, superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, is responsible for overseeing academic achievement for all students and the school district’s business functions. Her priority is to narrow the achievement gap while raising the achievement for all students. Her recent milestones include the passage of a new strategic plan that aspires to close the achievement gap by 2020; a new discipline policy to address inequities and keep students in school, including a moratorium on pre-K through first-grade suspensions for nonviolent behaviors; and a new office dedicated to the achievement of black male students. Dr. Johnson’s superintendency began in July 2010.

    Dr. Ginger L. Zierdt

    Interim assistant vice president for undergraduate education, Minnesota State University, Mankato

    WIPS_ZierdtDr. Zierdt, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, served as Interim Chair for the Department of Elementary & Early Childhood Education, Director for the Center for School-University Partnerships, and Principal Investigator for a partnership between MSU and the Archibald Bush Foundation. Prior to her work at the University, she taught in Mankato public schools. Dr. Zierdt served on the Board of Directors for the National Association for Professional Development Schools, and was a delegate member for international higher education partnership development between MSU and universities within Russia, Australia, and China. In May 2014, MSU awarded her the Claire E. Faust Public Service Award.

    Judy Zimmer

    Certified effectiveness coach, master certified coach practitioner, coachology.us

    Judy Zimmer is a professional speaker and a personal branding and professional development coach. She is the Founder of Coachology.us a branding and speaking firm based in Minnesota. Audiences appreciate Judy for her lively, dynamic and tailored presentations. Her emcee work has been praised for her candor, professionalism and sense of humor.

    Other Speakers

    Ellen Anderson

    WIPS_AndersonEllen Anderson is Executive Director of the University of Minnesota's Energy Lab Transition. The Lab leverages University expertise in law, policy, and other disciplines, in partnership with the public, private, community, and nonprofit sectors, to help solve our biggest energy challenges for the future. From 2012 to 2014, Anderson was Senior Advisor on Energy and Environment to Governor Mark Dayton and assisted the state Environmental Quality Boart (EQB). From 2011-2012 she was Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993-2011, representing several neighborhoods of St. Paul and the city of Falcon Heights. Her signature legislation includes the Renewable Energy Standard and many other energy laws. Anderson holds a B.A. from Carleton College and J.D. cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. She has been an Adjunct faculty member, and has received dozens of awards for her leadership.

    Calley Bliss

    WIPS_BlissListening to Calley Bliss is like putting jazz, R&B, pop, rock, funk, and folk in a blender and coming out with a decadent drink you can't quite stop from sipping.

    Calley – a “Jill of all things Entertainment”- has worked in performance, production, and education with organizations such as Maryland-based Severn Records, New York City-based Starlight Orchestras, and as department chair at Idaho-based Fresco Arts Academy. In 2014 she started Entertainment Jill, a boutique company offering vocal production, performance, and education. Behind her work is a consistent goal to foster female leadership within the entertainment industry. www.entertainmentjill.com

    Linda Brandt

    WIPS_BrandtLinda Brandt has promoted worksite wellness at the county level for over seven years. In addition, Linda has a master’s degree in public health and experience assisting individuals and groups to make positive health behavior changes. Both at work and at play, Linda is passionate about creating inclusive organizations, using physical challenges for empowerment, and building community with technology and Lean In circles.

    Lt. Col. Erika Cashin

    WIPS_CashinErika Cashin commands the 934th Mission Support Flight, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Air Reserve Station. The unit provides personnel, education and training support to a wing of approximately 1,350 Air Force Reserve personnel. The flight also supports the deployment of wing personnel for contingency operations throughout the world. Her career began at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba. She and her husband transferred to Washington, where she worked at the Navy Oceanographic Processing Facility. Upon her husband's separation from the Navy, Major Cashin attended Air Force Officer Training in Mississippi, and has since held positions as executive officer, squadron section commander and support flight commander for an active duty recruiting squadron. Major Cashin holds an MPA from Troy State University, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a BA in International Relations. She has received many service awards and decorations.

    Irene Fernando

    WIPS_FernandoIrene Fernando is a Filipino-American who moved from California to attend the University of Minnesota, where she earned a BS in Business from the Carlson School of Management and an M.Ed in Youth Development Leadership. As a teenager, Irene co-founded STLF – Students Today Leaders Forever, with a mission of revealing leadership through service, relationships, and action. With her leadership, STLF has grown in size and impact. Irene spends her time volunteering and traveling. In 2013, she was recognized by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal for 40 Under 40, and by Minnesota Business Magazine for The (Real) Power 50.

    Aimee Gourlay

    WIPS_GourlayAimee Gourlay, Director of Mediation Center affiliated with Hamline Law School Dispute Resolution Institute, has been with the Center since 1993. She is a Senior Fellow at DRI, teaching Externship, Negotiation and Mediation courses, and is adjunct faculty with the Hamline MBA Program, teaching Organizational Conflict Management Systems. Aimee’s consulting work includes design and facilitation of public engagement processes, conflict assessment, mediation, and conflict responses for organizations. She is well known for her work facilitating processes with large groups of people that include multiple stakeholders. Aimee also serves on the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution National Roster of Environmental Dispute Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals.

    Erica Hanna

    WIPS_HannaErica is an Emmy-award winning Creative TV “Preditor” (Producer, Writer, Photographer, Director, Editor), turned social and creative strategist. After working for 10 years in television, she recently was asked to lead the social team at BringMeTheNews.com; after tripling the website traffic there, local Creative Agency Curb Crowser asked her to come on board as the Director of Digital Content.

    Erica’s love of all things digital stemmed from an online charity fundraising campaign she spearheaded by raising $30,000 via social media for water wells in Africa. She is also the owner of "Puke Rainbows Creative," and her motto is "When life gives you rain, puke a rainbow."

    Kristi Hemmer

    WIPS_HemmerKristi Hemmer lives and breathes “all lives have equal value.” Her muse is planting good, nurturing it, making it AWEsome, and seeing it bloom around the world. She has been an educator for more than 20 years and has seen firsthand awesome girls/women shrink in a classroom, a community, and worldwide; it made her mad enough to quit her six-figure job, write a book about social entrepreneurship, and start her own social enterprise: AWE (Academy for Women’s Empowerment). Learn more at www.kristihemmer.com and www.puttingwomeninpower.com

    Katie Kalkman

    Client Development Manager, Antenna Consulting

    Jennifer Kane

    WIPS_KaneJennifer Kane is a consultant, strategist, author, educator and speaker with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications. To find out more about her visit JenKane.comor follow her on Twitter at @JenKaneCo.



    Meg Knodl

    WIPS_KnodlMeg Knodl has coordinated social media efforts for Hennepin County as a Community Manager and Public Affairs Officer for the past two years. For the decade before, Knodl worked as a librarian for Hennepin County Library culminating as a Senior Librarian in Communications and Community Engagement. Her current role is an 18 month assignment in the HC Center for Innovation and Excellence developing skills in innovation and improvement, surveys, problem solving, analytics, critical thinking, change management, and facilitation. Knodl’s free time is devoted to technology and craft- on Ravelry and using ProjectLife for iPhone as well as wrangling her two year old daughter, Nora.

    Nicole Kutzi

    Contracting Officer, Dept. of Veterans Affairs

    Maggie Meyer

    WIPS_MeyerMaggie Meyer is the Associate Director at womenwinning, where she owns the Marketing, Development and Fundraising aspects of the organization. womenwinning is the only multi-partisan, pro-choice women’s organization with both a State and Federal Political Action Committee (PAC) in the state of Minnesota. womenwinning works to elect pro-choice women candidates at every level of office, from Park Board to President of the United States. Maggie was previously employed by Books for Africa, where her team shipped more than 5 million books to schools and libraries in 27 different countries in just two years. Maggie received her undergraduate degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of St. Thomas in 2011. While in school, she kept busy with Model United Nations, Invisible Children, and a number of political campaigns.

    Deborah Montgomery

    WIPS_MontgomeryDeborah Montgomery was a community organizer for Model Cities for the city of Saint Paul, a social planner and assistant director of Model Cities, City-Planner, Budget Analyst, Assistant Grants and Aids Coordinator and Administrative Assistant to Mayors Charlie McCarthy and Larry Cohen. Deb was the first female police officer for the city of St. Paul, serving twenty eight years and retiring as a senior commander. Elected to the Saint Paul City Council in 2003-08, she served on numerous non-profit boards, such as the YWCA of Saint Paul, Saint Paul Urban League, Hallie Q. Brown, and National Board of Directors of the NAACP.

    Rolf Nordstrom

    WIPS_NordstromRolf Nordstrom is President and CEO of the Great Plains Institute, a non-partisan nonprofit corporation that specializes in using consensus-based strategies to solve our energy and climate change challenges. www.betterenergy.org. Mr. Nordstorm has an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Carleton College and a Masters Degree in International Environmental Policy from Tufts University. He has served for nearly 30 years in both governmental and non-profit settings, from the United States Congress and the World Wildlife Fund (International), in Brussels, Belgium to his current role as “chief energy diplomat” at the Great Plains Institute. For much of his career Rolf has worked to broker agreement among disparate interests on difficult public policy issues.

    Barbara O'Sullivan

    Barbara has worked in education for the past 40 years. She is currently working at Minnesota Department of Education. She is also a life coach specializing in championing people’s journey through life transitions in order to pursue their goals and dreams. Barbara is enrolled in a yearlong yoga study program to become a certified yoga teacher and plans to teach yoga to baby boomers and young children.

    Marcela Sánchez

    WIPS_SanchezMarcela Sánchez has worked for more than ten years developing programs for the Latino community and bringing Latino culture to the larger public library community in the Twin Cities. Her projects include an enhanced Children's Day/Book Day program model that emphasizes collaboration between libraries and community partners, and Super Kinder: listos para el kinder, a kindergarten readiness program for Latino parents and their children. Born and raised in Mexico, Marcela immigrated to Minnesota in 1997. In 2005 she earned her bachelor’s degree at Hamline University.

    Mary Van Milligen

    WIPS_Van MilligenMary Van Milligen was a 2013 recipient of Hamline’s Public Service Rising Star Award. She currently serves as Assistant to the Administrator in the City of Woodbury and is a St. Paul Lean In Circle Leader. Mary graduated with her MPA from Northern Illinois University in 2012. During her time at NIU, she worked at Intern to the Village Manager in Downers Grove, IL. Mary realized her vocation in city government after some career exploration in her 20’s. Mary served two AmeriCorps terms, worked in a Denver non-profit volunteer resource center and managed restaurants in Iowa and Colorado. Her passion for service finally brought her to a fulfilling career in local government where she enjoys the daily activities of human resources, budgeting and performance measurement; as well as facilitating constructive group discussion, leading teams and working towards positive organizational culture changes.

    Mary Vanderwert

    WIPS_VanderwertMary Vanderwert is the Program Manager for the Minnesota Oral Health Zone sponsored by the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation and Delta Dental Foundation of Minnesota whose mission it is to end pediatric dental disease. She comes to this role with over 25 years experience working in the field of early childhood education and especially with Head Start. She has provided training and technical assistance for state Head Start programs, managed child care programs at the Wilder Foundation, served as Head Start State Collaboration Director and sat on the Governor’s Early Learning Council. As a member of the community, she leads the Midway Progressive Women and is active in DFL politics. She particularly likes the Open Space Technology format for meetings and is excited to facilitate the discussion on women in public office.

    Amanda Varley

    WIPS_VarleyAmanda is a co-lead on Minnesota’s Kindergarten Entry Assessment and supports the state’s Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge Grant. She has her Master of Public Policy degree from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs and graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College. Amanda also sits on the board of Leaders of Today and Tomorrow, Young Education Professionals-Twin Cities, and co-chairs the Emerging Civic Leaders committee for the Citizens League. She spends her time hiking, on Minnesota's lakes, sewing and with her dog.

    Amy Willingham

    Lakeville Candidate for State Representative, District 58A