St. David's Center Leadership  

Executive Leadership Team

Julie SjordalJulie Sjordal
Chief Executive Officer

Julie brings nearly 30 years of experience to her role as chief executive officer. Over her 28 years at St. David's Center, she has held many roles in direct service, project management and leadership, invariably focused on our community's most vulnerable children and families. Prior to taking on executive leadership, Julie served as managing director of programs, oversaw the approximately 30 programs at St. David's Center and was instrumental in co-developing some of the most innovative programs and collaborative partnerships.   

Julie earned her elementary education degree and special education certification from the University of Minnesota. She resides in Golden Valley with her husband, Dan, and their two children.

Laura DornikLaura Dornik 
Director of Policy, Training & Talent

As director of policy, training & talent, Laura is responsible for St. David’s Center’s human resources function, managing a team of four. She brings more than eight years of human resources experience to her job, including expertise in performance management, employee relations, and benefits. She has worked in small and large businesses including Crutchfield Dermatology, Target Corporation, and Signature Bank.

Laura earned her bachelor’s degree in child psychology from the University of Minnesota and her Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certificate in 2011. She lives in Victoria with her husband, Matt, and two children.


Erica TennessenErica Tennessen 
Chief Operating Officer

As chief operating officer at St. David's Center, Erica is responsible for the oversight of all center- and community-based programs and finance. Since joining the organization in 1997, she has worked in several program leadership positions providing direction to programs serving individuals with enduring special needs. Prior to St. David's Center, Erica worked with at-risk populations including adults with mental illness and children who have been victims of abuse or neglect.

Erica graduated from Providence College with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She resides in Eagan with her husband, Nate, and their four children. 


Maureen WalshMaureen Walsh
Chief Advancement and Strategy Officer

As chief advancement and strategy officer, Maureen leads the fundraising, communications and marketing, community engagement and advocacy efforts of the organization, in addition to several initiatives that advance the field of early intervention. With a knack for building strong strategic partnerships and a solid program development and evaluation background, earned primarily in urban nonprofit settings, she brings more than 25 years of leadership experience to her role.

Maureen has bachelor's and master's degrees in social work from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. She lives in Victoria with her husband, John, and their three children.


Emily WaltonEmily Walton
Director of Administration & Health Information Management

As Director of Administration & Health Information Management, Emily is responsible for the oversight of the Central Office of Resources and Enrollment (CORE), Medical Records, HIPAA Compliance, Electronic Medical Record (EMR) implementation, and Operations and Facilities. Emily began her career with St. David’s Center in 2007. Since her hire, she has been an asset to many teams, including Policy Training and Talent, Life-Phase Services, and CORE. Prior to St. David’s Center, Emily worked as a vocational rehabilitation specialist, providing workplace case management and support to adults with special needs.

Emily has a bachelor’s degree in vocational rehabilitation with a dual minor in vocational counseling and psychiatric rehabilitation from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She and her husband, Aaron, currently reside in South Minneapolis with their two daughters. 


Senior Program Leadership

Cara Benoit, MA, CCC-SLP 
Senior Program Director of Pediatric Therapies

Cara has been working as a speech-language pathologist for 19 years, with 18 years of experience in nonprofit organizations. For the past 11 years, she has been the clinical supervisor to the speech therapy team at St. David’s Center, while maintaining her role as an outpatient therapist and as a member of the Multi-Disciplinary Assessment Team.

Cara has a bachelor's degree from the University of Wyoming and a master's degree from Northern Michigan University. She has pursued a wide range of specialized training, including coursework in the areas of language, speech sound production, social communication, literacy, and feeding. Cara lives in Chanhassen with her two teenage daughters and son.


Stephanie Combey

Stephanie Combey, MSW, LICSW
Senior Director of Children’s Mental Health Services

Stephanie provides strategic leadership in the area of children’s mental health services. She brings more than 20 years of program leadership and development in mental health services for children and their families.  A Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, she has worked in a wide range of settings, including psychiatric hospital care, outpatient and county social work. Stephanie has been with St. David’s Center since 2005.

Stephanie holds a bachelor's degree from the College of Saint Benedict and a Master of Social Work from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She resides in Eden Prairie with her family.


Lisa Curtis
Senior Program Director of Life Phase Services

Lisa’s career includes years of experience providing services for individuals with lifelong special needs. For the past 17 years, she has worked in a variety of capacities at St. David’s Center, most recently, as the senior director of Life Phase services. She has an extensive background in compliance, business analytics, process improvement, staff recruitment and retention. Her early career began in direct care, helping clients develop independent living skills. 

Lisa’s educational experience includes studies at the University of Wisconsin River Falls, Lakewood Community College and Normandale Community College, where she received a Graduate Associate in Arts degree. Lisa lives in Hopkins with her husband, Mark, and sons, both of whom are St. David’s Center alumni. 


Paula FriskPaula Frisk, MS
Senior Program Director of Home Visiting Programs

Paula oversees St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, the Infant Team Program, and the Healthy Families Program, in addition to working with the Metro Alliance for Healthy Families. Paula joined St. David’s Center in 1999 and spent twelve years in home visiting before becoming director. 

With a master’s degree in applied psychology and a Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy, she has more than 20 years of experience working with families and children. 


Kate RickordKate Rickord, MA, LP
Senior Director of Foster Care and Adoption Services

Kate has more than 15 years of experience in the field of children’s mental health through school-based and parent-focused programs. She has a Trauma Studies certificate from the University of Minnesota and has served on the Education and Training Committee for the Minnesota Psychological Association since 2008. Her areas of expertise include trauma, self-regulation in children and parent/caregiver education that helps ensure the social-emotional needs of children are being met.

Kate earned her master’s degree in counseling and psychological services from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She and her husband have two children.


Vanessa Slivken
Senior Program Director of Autism Services 

Vanessa oversees the Autism Day Treatment and Autism Spectrum Disorder Support Services (ASDSS) programs. She has been leading ASDSS for the past year, returning to St. David’s Center after a number of years in a variety of settings. She has more than twelve years of professional experience in the mental/behavioral health field, has co-founded an autism therapy center, and has consulted with local autism therapy centers, a residential treatment center, and a CTSS agency. Vanessa lives in Plymouth, with her husband and young son. 


See Board of Directors

Site developed by Creed Interactive - Minneapolis Web Design | Photography by Josh Hackney Photography; James Schwartz, SchwartzPictures; and Leslie Kellum Photography.