The MINN Board of Directors is comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise who are selected to meet MINN's evolving needs and support its mission and vision. Many of the members of the Board are former leaders of MINN’s volunteer teams. Applications to serve on the Board are open each fall for positions that begin in January.
President: Nicholas Hayen
Nicholas is currently a Team Lead Project Manager for United Language Group, a language translation company. He has an academic background in the modern Middle East, International Relations, and American Foreign Policy. He brings a passion for educating Americans about global affairs and his blog and podcast series, The Orientalist Express, simplifies current events to make foreign policy easier to understand for the everyday person.
President Ex Officio: Krister Karlsson
After graduating with a degree in Business & Economics from Kalamazoo College, Krister moved to Sweden where he earned a Master’s in Politics and International Studies from Uppsala University. Now back home in Minnesota, Krister joins the MINN board of directors with over 10 years experience - spanning five countries and four continents - in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
Kyla is a local and international nonprofit professional, passionate about challenging broken aid systems and championing community-led development. She was most recently the Management and Inclusion Lead for Mama Hope’s Global Advocate Program, which trains a generation of social change workers globally to become ambassadors for and practitioners of community-led development and ethical media. Kyla has a BA in Sociology/Anthropology and Race and Ethnic Studies at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.
Treasurer: Sarah Novack
Sarah Novack is a Grant and Contracts Specialist at the Center for Victims of Torture, a nonprofit delivering behavioral health services to vulnerable populations and training advocates and providers on trauma and resiliency. She earned a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia and Tanzania. Sarah’s interests include hiking and spending time outside, going to bar trivia, and drinking coffee.
Natasha brings a passion for inclusive, community-led program design to her work in the gender and international development field. She has a background in curriculum development, facilitation, project management and evaluation. A Minnesota native with a global perspective, Natasha has worked for girl-centered organizations and schools across five countries.
Rufo Jiru came to the USA in 1993 as a refugee from Oromia, Ethiopia. She has been a Research Chemist at Bio-Techne for over 15 years. Rufo is the founder of Anole Sisters, an organization committed to working with women in the Oromo diaspora to acknowledge past trauma, embrace healing, build connections, and create systems and supports to effect change in our global and local communities. This organization came about as a result of Rufo's observations of the past trauma affecting her community, and the lack of resources available to women in particular. She felt moved to build connections and community for Oromo women to provide sister-to-sister support. Rufo is also currently a board member on the Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN), and an active member of the Disability Support International Advisory Working group and the MN Autism Council group. Rufo served on the Oromo Community board from 2016-2018.
Anne loves problem solving and working toward equity globally. She is Vice President of Programs and Evaluation at Children’s HeartLink, an NGO treating children with heart disease in low and middle income countries. She loves evaluation and scaling interventions to increase impact.
Hannah Litfin is the Development and Events Coordinator at Loaves & Fishes where she oversees the majority of the organization's fundraising efforts. Her previous experiences include research on at-risk youth in Amsterdam and an internship at Cultivate International. She has been a part of the MINN Summit Planning Committee since 2018 and most recently served as one of the 2019 MINN Summit Co-Chairs.
Yodit is a multifaceted international development professional with local and global experience in program management, monitoring and evaluation, education management, and business systems improvement. Yodit holds a Master's in International Sustainable Development Practice and brings rich experience from the nonprofit, public, and private fields. She's thrilled to serve as a board member for the Minnesota International NGO Network.
Pat Plonski is Executive Director of Books For Africa, the world’s largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent. Books For Africa has shipped over 47 million books and served every African country since 1988 with an annual fiscal impact exceeding $30 million. Plonski has traveled to 48 countries in his career. He has served as an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences teaching coursework on world development issues. Previously, Plonski has served as Executive Director of the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council at the University of Minnesota, and Committee Administrator of the Minnesota House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. He holds a PhD in International Education from the University of Minnesota, a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Minnesota, and a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in History from St. John’s University. Plonski has also studied at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education Program in Istanbul, Turkey, the University of Salzburg, Austria and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He has presented at the Summit of the Book at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt, and the World Literacy Summit at Oxford University). He was awarded a Cargill Fellowship for European Union agricultural research in Belgium and Hungary, and a University of Minnesota Human Rights Fellowship for agricultural research in Italy and Poland). He has served on Minnesota Trade Office agricultural delegations to New Zealand and Denmark. Plonski is frequent commentator in the media on topics pertaining to development, education, and literacy in Africa.
Tyler is a Community Solutions Fellow at Community Reinvestment Fund, a national nonprofit that works to address social and economic inequity through new financial solutions. He has a background in biology, social entrepreneurship, and international development and is passionate about cross-sector innovation. Since 2014, Tyler has also directed a social venture in Loreto, Peru supporting sustainable malaria prevention.
Nilima is a Global Health Philanthropy Portfolio Lead at the Medtronic Foundation, based in Washington D.C.. She brings over 10 years of managerial experience working across various national/state governments, healthcare systems, for-profit and nonprofit health sectors, including USAID, CDC, American Red Cross, and the Gov. of India. Prior to joining Medtronic Foundation, Nilima led programs overseeing supply chains for global health commodities, integrating behavioral health into community healthcare facilities, and coordinating local & national stakeholders for large-scale disaster response. She is passionate about leveraging strategic partnerships and rigorous analysis to co-create smarter models that address the dynamic and complex public health needs of the underserved. Nilima holds an M.S. in Public Health from Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, and a B.S. in Biology & B.A. in Spanish from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Mohammed is originally from Barbados and moved to the USA in 2016. He worked as a career
diplomat for the Government of Barbados for fifteen years representing the interests of Barbados and the Caribbean on the international arena. Mohammed’s portfolio included issues ranging from climate change, sustainable development and disarmament to rights of the child, race, gender, migration and human rights. Since leaving the Foreign Service, he has been providing consultancy services and writing a weekly newspaper column. Mohammed holds a BSc International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science and an MA International Studies from the University of Durham.
Having lived, worked, studied, and traveled in numerous countries around the world, Dawn is passionate about being an informed, authentic, and responsible global citizen. She works as an evaluation consultant and recently completed a graduate certificate in program evaluation at the U of MN. She has worked and/or volunteered in the fields of community development, education, anti-tobacco, public health, refugee health and humanitarian assistance. She has a masters from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is excited to learn more about the work Minnesotans are doing around the world through serving with MINN.
Katherine has been in the role of Executive Director of Mary’s Pence since 2008. Mary’s Pence provides funds and capacity building to women’s organizations in North and Central America. In the United States they provide grants to women’s groups working on social change. In Mexico and Central America they partner with 10 organizations in 5 countries, focusing on supporting small business initiatives, the empowerment of women, and strengthening local organizations in the region.
Hanna received her B.A in Psychology and International Business Management from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, and her M.A. in Behavioral Science/Counseling and Psychological Services from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prior to becoming the Executive Director in 2018, Hanna was the Director of Operations at Face to Face. Hanna has over 25 years of nonprofit administration experience including at Tubman Inc. and Avenues for Homeless Youth, leading health and human services for populations across the life span.
Hanna is an active community leader, involved in working to strengthen systems designed to support those served in the community and globally. Additionally, she currently serves on various boards and community groups- including the St. Paul, Ramsey Community Health Advisory Committee and Clair Housing Board of Directors. Hanna has had the honor of being a co-founder of a nonprofit that works to enrich African lives (R.E.A.L Inc.-Resources for Reaching African Lives)
Kelsey works in on-farm sustainability for Land O'Lakes and has a background in supply chain and operations. Following an international development assignment in Sri Lanka, she moved to Minnesota and found community through MINN that shared her passion for global issues. Kelsey has since been an active volunteer, most recently serving as one of the 2020 MINN Summit Co-Chairs.
Karen Baumgaertner, Karen Baumgaertner Consulting