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St. David's Center Leadership

Get to know our leadership team and board of directors.


Board of Directors, Executive Committee

Jorge Becerra

Board Chair

Business Development Director, Cargill Inc.

Jorge Becerra was born and raised in Ecuador until moving to the United States for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He joined Cargill in 1999, where he currently serves as the Internal Business Development Director for the Cargill Protein and Cargill Animal Nutrition & Health Enterprises. He is also an active member of the Cargill Hispanic & Latino Council (CHLC). Jorge lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two sons, Juan Pablo and Diego.

Dr. Nathan Whittier, PsyD ABPP

Past Chair

Dr. Nate Whittier is a Board Certified Business Psychologist and Partner with SKS Consulting Group. Nate has effectively partnered with a range of client organizations to enhance the quality of decision-making in the critical areas of leadership selection and development. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, and his Master’s of Business Administration and Doctor of Psychology degrees from Wright State University. He and his wife live in Minnetonka with their three children, all who have benefitted from participation in St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Education program.

Nate Geske


Nate served as the Senior Managing Director at Varde Partners and is a Board Level Investor and Board Member at Unmapped Brewing in Minnetonka. His professional experience includes more than 15 years as a fiduciary managing investments. Nate received his MBA from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Business in 2005. He lives in Minnetonka with his wife and three children.

Ann Lowry, M.D.

Strategic Oversight Committee Chair

Ann Lowry is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of Minnesota and a practicing surgeon in the Twin Cities, graduating from Harvard University and Tufts University School of Medicine. Ann has been involved in surgical education for most of her career, serving as the program director of the University of Minnesota colon and rectal surgery residency for 10 years, the President of the Association of Program Directors of Colon and Rectal Surgery and the Chair of the Residency Review Committee of Colon and Rectal Surgery. She is passionate about high quality healthcare, education, children, and leadership development and diversity, as reflected in her participation in several mentorship programs nationally and involvement with St. David’s Center in various volunteer roles for over thirty years. Married for over 35 years, Ann and her husband enjoy their blended family of four children and four grandchildren as well as traveling, reading, gardening, skiing, biking, and kayaking.

Betsy Hawn

Advancement Committee Chair

Betsy began her career in marketing at Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine. In 2004, she moved to San Francisco to take a position with Gap's events marketing team, where she worked until 2006. From 2006 to 2012 Betsy worked at Target Corporation on their events marketing team, promoting the Target brand and their designer partnerships. Notably, Betsy was part of the team that pioneered the concept of the "pop-up" store, which was a strategy they employed in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In 2012, Betsy decided to leave Target and pursue an entrepreneurial concept called Gusto blow dry bars. Betsy is actively involved in a number of charitable capacities at St. David's Center, chairing their annual gala and serving on the campaign committee for St. David's new center at Westminster Church in Downtown, Minneapolis. Betsy served on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota from 2009 to 2014. Betsy is married to Benjamin Van Zandt Hawn and they have two children together.

Klerissa Church

Human Resources Committee Chair

Klerissa Church has over 20 years of experience in HR leadership and career consulting. She began her career with General Mills, providing talent management, organization development, conflict resolution and business partnership both inside and outside of the United States. She is currently senior advisor of human resources for Partners in Food Solutions, an organization working to improve food security in Africa. She also serves on the executive committee of the MacPhail Center for Music board of directors. She attended Michigan State University, earning her bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree in labor relations and human resources.

Board of Directors, Members at Large

Lisa Bailey

Board Member

Vice President of Media, Sleep Number Corporation

Lisa Bailey is Vice President of Media at Sleep Number Corporation with over 30 years of brand marketing experience. Lisa has been fortunate to work for organizations that value individuals and create products that improve lives. A strong believer in building strong relationships and teams which has been the foundation of everything she does both professionally and personally. Lisa loves to spend time with her family outdoors and enjoying beautiful places in Minnesota and around the world.

Dr. Rachel Bies, MD

Board Member, Medical Director

Rachel Bies, MD FAAP is a pediatrician at Wayzata Children’s Clinic. She has worked at the clinic since 2009, practicing general pediatrics with an emphasis on special-needs patient populations. She has served as medical director for the organization 2011 to 2019. She is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, working with medical students and residents. Rachel graduated from St. Olaf College in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. She attended medical school and residency at the University of Minnesota, completing a chief residency in 2009. Rachel joined St. David’s as the medical director in 2017. Rachel and her husband live in Plymouth, MN.

Jim Eppel

Board Member

Jim Eppel spent a very short stint in public accounting upon graduation from St. Thomas University before landing in healthcare — somewhat by accident. He spent forty-four years doing richly rewarding executive leadership work within several healthcare organizations including HealthPartners, UCare, Optum, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Allina, Medica, and more. As Jim puts it, he was blessed to have been exposed to myriad wonderful opportunities, never receiving a particular “functional” label. Throughout this experience, Jim worked with, and maintained relationships with, a wonderful array of people.

Katie Liegel

Board Member

Katie Liegel is a commercial attorney and certified information privacy professional who serves the various legal needs of companies ranging from software start-ups to public corporations engaged in cloud computing, omni-channel commerce, digital marketing, and software as a service. She studied Economics and International Finance at Tufts University and went on to focus her law school studies around corporate health care law, including serving as an editor of the Suffolk University Journal of Health & Biomedical Law. Katie has served on the Leadership Emergence and Development (LEAD) Project Board and the Minneapolis Club's Young Professionals board and can be found actively volunteering for a number of local organizations focused on children and animal welfare, including chairing St. David’s Center’s Make Them Shine Gala. Katie and her husband Matt live in Minnetonka with their two children, who attended St. David's Center Early Childcare Education Program.

Matt McDonald

Board Member

Matt McDonald is a medical technology sales leader with Medtronic. Matt’s passion for ensuring accessibility to childhood development and family services stems from his daughter, Macy Rae, who has Down syndrome and is a proud daughter, sister to Margot, cousin to many, and grandchild. Inspired by Macy Rae’s unbelievable will to try, Matt and his family are eager to show the community the same support and access they have received at St. David’s Center, while bringing his diverse experience to our board. Matt and his wife Ashley are both graduates of St. Olaf College; Matt received a data-and-technology-driven MBA from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. He and his family currently live in Minnetonka.

Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed

Hopkins Public Schools Superintendent

Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed has served in public education for over 20 years and currently serves as the Superintendent to the Hopkins Public School District. She worked as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal before attending Harvard University's new doctoral program in Education Leadership, which resulted in a doctoral residency with the District of Columbia Public Schools, building a principal training program. Dr. Mhiripiri-Reed lives with her husband Frank and their two children Sterling and Maddie.

Mariam Mohamed

Board Member

Mariam Mohamed serves as a yearly contract consultant for UCare and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, as well as being a co-owner of Hoyo, a company founded on the goal of employing and empowering Somali women. In addition to having more than 30 years of professional experience working with nonprofits, foundations, and public and private organizations, Mariam is currently a much-called-upon consultant and advisor to government, nonprofit/profit agencies and local communities.

Colleen Ness

Board Member

Director of Sales, Blommer Chocolate Company

Colleen Ness is Director of Sales at Blommer Chocolate Company. She has spent her career focused in food and nutrition, developing strategy, driving transformational change, managing internal and external stakeholder expectations, and developing and growing markets that drive P&L growth. She is passionate about leadership, the power of influence, and developing and mentoring others to success. She is a graduate of Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Colleen lives in Orono with her husband, David, and daughter, Isla, who attended St. David’s Center Early Childhood Education program.

Jana Simmons

Board Member

Community Volunteer

Jana Simmons has extensive experience in not-for-profit governance, particularly in the healthcare arena. She earned a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a J.D. from Tulane University Law School. Jana was counsel and governance manager for Visiting Nurse Service of New York, a home healthcare agency, and also worked at Bingham Dana in New York City. She started and sold a dog product business featuring a puppy product she designed. She now resides in Plymouth with her husband and daughter.

James Stewart

Board Member

James (Jim) Stewart is the Chief Financial Officer for Fusion Risk Management. He has extensive experience leading finance organizations in both public and private equity backed companies, with industry experience in software, services, and manufacturing, including education technology SaaS, video software, human resource software and benefit solutions, voice and data services, and personal computing. Jim received his BSB and MBA in Finance from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Garrett Tvinnereim

Board Member

A North Dakota native, Garrett Tvinnereim graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in accounting. He started his career at Deloitte in Minneapolis and worked in their audit practice for 9 years. This was followed by a decade in various accounting and finance roles at two separate manufacturing companies prior to joining McGough Construction, where he has been the Financial Controller since 2019. McGough has been a long-term supporter of St. David’s Center and truly values St. David’s and the services they provide to so many children and families. Garrett lives in Edina with his wife and three sons.

Rafael Vasconcellos, M.D.

Board Member & Past Board Chair

Senior Vice President Medical Affairs, United Health Group

Born in Brazil, Dr. Rafael Vasconcellos relocated to Minneapolis in 2014 upon accepting a position as Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealthGroup. He has held several leadership positions since earning his medical degree in 2001, including serving as Medical Director of Hospital Pró-Cardíaco, a major cardiac center in Rio de Janeiro. Rafael also served for 13 years as a physician with the Rio de Janeiro Fire Department Air Rescue Unit, performing over 300 air medical evacuations during his tenure. Rafael and his wife live in Plymouth with their four-year-old daughter and three-year-old son.

Ghita Worcester

Board Member

Ghita Worcester served as the Executive VP and Chief Growth Officer at UCare, where she spearheaded health care reforms and strategic initiatives across marketing, public relations, and provider relations. With over forty years in Minnesota's health care and nonprofit sectors, she has been a pivotal figure in shaping policies to support disadvantaged communities. Post-retirement, Ghita continues her impactful work by serving on boards like Portico Healthnet and Global Health Alliance, which serves Somali residents to support positive health outcomes, and by contributing to projects such as the Hennepin County Birth Justice Coalition and Hoyo Food, the Somali-focused food-processing company. Her community-focused leadership has earned recognition, including a dedicated "Ghita Worcester Day" in Minneapolis. Ghita and her husband Mark are sure to make plenty of time to mentor their five lucky grandchildren.

Leadership Team

Julie Sjordal

Chief Executive Officer

Over her 36 years at St. David's Center, Julie has held many roles in direct service, project management and leadership, invariably focused on meeting the needs of 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 innovative service models and collaborative partnerships. Julie earned her elementary education degree and special education certification from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Golden Valley with her husband, Dan.

Erica Tennessen

Erica Tennessen

Chief Financial Officer

Over her 25 years at St. David’s Center, Erica has worked in a variety of strategic leadership roles including Senior Director, Managing Director of Programs, Chief Operating Officer, and currently as Chief Financial Officer. In this role Erica is responsible for all aspects of financial health of the organization, as well as Information Technology, Intake and Enrollment, Medical Records, Facilities, Risk Management and Compliance.

Erica graduated from Providence College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and is a current Master’s in Business Administration student. She is married with 4 children.

Maureen Walsh

Maureen 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.

Jane Perry, MSW, LICSW

Chief Clinical Officer

As Chief Clinical Officer at St. David's Center, Jane is responsible for providing conceptual and clinical guidance across the St. David’s Center continuum of mental health services in all clinics and community-based settings. In this role, Jane also leads the outpatient mental health assessment and therapy team at our two clinics, oversees much of St. David's Center's clinical and reflective consultation in school districts and Hennepin County, leads our mental health clinical workforce development and mental health internship programs, and directs the organization's investment in evidence-based mental health intervention models. She completed her Master’s degree in Social Work at St. Catherine’s/St. Thomas University in 2003, and has been working with children and their families for 30 years.

Cara Benoit, MA, CCC-SLP

Chief Operating Officer

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.

Lisa Curtis

Lisa Curtis

Senior Program Director, Community-Based Disability Services

Lisa’s career includes years of experience providing services for individuals with lifelong special needs. Since 1999, she has worked in a variety of roles at St. David’s Center and is currently the Senior Director of Community-Based Disability Services. She has an extensive background in compliance, business analytics, process improvement, staff recruitment and retention, program development and consumer direct services. Her early career began in direct care, supporting people with I/DD to be active in their community and 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 an Associate in Arts degree with high honors. Lisa lives in Hopkins with her husband, Mark, and sons, both of whom are St. David’s Center alumni.

Candice Daulton

Senior Program Director

Candice has been with St. David’s Center for 15 years and brings a holistic understanding of the organization to her leadership role in early childhood education. Prior to heading up our ECE program, she held a variety of roles in our life phase services and served as the director of human resources. She brings her passion for working in the social service sector to her position, and specializes in developing new leaders in the field and understanding emotional intelligence in the workplace.

Candice completed a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and has completed graduate-level study in business and nonprofit management. She lives in Blaine with her husband and two children.

Laura Dornik

Chief People Officer

As the leader 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 three children.

Paula Frisk, MS, LMFT, IMH-E

Senior Program Director, Parent-Child Services

Paula Frisk has been providing prevention, early intervention and treatment services to families and children, prenatal through age six since 1995. In her current position as Senior Program Director of Parent-Child Services, she provides oversight as well reflective, clinical, and administrative support to her Prenatal to Age Five Home Visiting Teams. Paula has years of experience supporting programs with evidence-based and evidence-informed models. She also provides Infant Mental Health consultation and reflective practice groups in Hennepin County. Paula serves on the executive team of the Minnesota Coalition for Family Home visiting and has served on the Quality Assurance team for the Metro Alliance for Healthy Families.

Paula lives in Minnetonka with her husband and has two adult children.

Jayson Palm

Director of Facilities and Risk Management

As director of facilities and risk management, Jayson puts the safety and security of our clients, staff, and guests as a first priority, and ensures that our buildings and grounds are well equipped and maintained. Jayson has 20+ years of nonprofit operations and management experience ranging from alleviating food scarcity to anti-trafficking work, serving on numerous boards and nonprofit executive teams.

Jayson has a bachelor’s degree in Christian Education, with a Youth Development emphasis, and a master’s degree in Theological Studies. He and his wife, Tarrah, currently reside in Minnetonka with their son and three daughters.

Vanessa Slivken

Vanessa Slivken, MA, LMFT

Executive Director - Minnetonka Site

Vanessa oversees all programs at our Minnetonka site, including Family Place Preschool Mental Health Day Treatment, Preschool Autism Day Treatment, co-located Preschool Autism Day Treatment at Harley Hopkins Family Center, and School Age Autism Day Treatment, as well as our Family Floortime Clinic and our inclusive Early Childhood Education program. She has been working in the mental/behavioral health field for 20 years at autism therapy centers, a dual diagnosis adolescent residential treatment center, and an in-home CTSS agency focused on high-risk youth and their families. Vanessa also co-founded an autism therapy center and has provided consultation for local autism therapy centers.

Vanessa received her bachelor's degree in Child Psychology and Youth Studies from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and her master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Argosy University - Twin Cities. Vanessa is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Board Approved Clinical Supervisor. She resides in Minnetonka, with her husband, two young sons, and Bernedoodle.

Emily Walton

Director of Administration and Health Information Management

As director of administration and health information management, Emily is responsible for the oversight of Reception, Medical Records, HIPAA Compliance, Electronic Medical Record (EMR) implementation, and IT. 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, reside in Minnetonka with their two daughters.

Megan Weber, LMFT

Senior Director, The Harman Center

Megan Weber has been with St. David’s Center since 2011. In her current position she is responsible for the clinical, administrative, and financial oversight of programming at St. David’s Center's satellite location in downtown Minneapolis, the Harman Center for Child and Family Wellbeing. Megan oversees the full spectrum of programming at the Harman Center, including Family Place Mental Health Day Treatment, Autism Day Treatment serving the East African population and outpatient clinical services including Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, and Mental Health Therapy.

Megan has worked with young children and families for over 15 years in a variety of settings and provides comprehensive knowledge and experience of various mental health diagnoses with a focus on children on the Autism spectrum.  Megan lives in Mahtomedi with her husband Ben and their two children.

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