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Staff Directory

St. David's Center Leadership

Our Executive Leadership Team, Senior Program Leadership, and Board of Directors


Executive Leadership Team

Julie 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.

Erica Tennessen

Erica Tennessen

Chief Financial Officer

As chief financial 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 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.

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.

Laura Dornik

Laura Dornik

Director of Policy, Training, and 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 three children.

Emily Walton

Emily Walton

Director of Administration and Health Information Management

As director of administration and 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

Cara Benoit, MA, CCC-SLP

Senior Program Director, 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.

Candice Daulton

Candice Daulton

Senior Program Director, Early Childhood Education

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 son.

Lisa Curtis

Lisa Curtis

Senior Program Director, 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 Frisk

Paula Frisk, MS

Senior Program Director, 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.

Vanessa Slivken

Vanessa Slivken, MA, LMFT

Senior Program Director, 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.


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Board of Directors, Executive Committee

Dr. Nathan Whittier, PsyD ABPP

Board Chair

Dr. Whittier is a Board Certified Organizational and Business Consulting Psychologist with advanced training in child and clinical psychology. As a partner and consulting psychologist with SKS Consulting Group, Nathan has worked across diverse industries in leadership assessment and the selection and development of key talent. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire and his Master of Business Administration and Doctor of Psychology from Wright State University. He and his wife live in Minnetonka with their two sons who attended St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Education program.

Rafael Vasconcellos, M.D.

Chair Elect

Senior Vice President Medical Affairs, UnitedHealth 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.

Webb Friedly

Webb Friedly

Past Board Chair

Leader of Strategy and Innovation, Target Corporation

Webb Friedly developed an early appreciation for early childhood development shaped by his mother's active participation in starting and directing programs in rural Michigan. He has spent his career internally and externally assisting companies develop and execute their largest enterprise strategies and is currently a leader of strategy and innovation at Target Corporation. A graduate of Albion College, he earned degrees in math, economics and management. Webb and his wife live in Wayzata and have twin daughters who attended St. David’s Center’s Early Childhood Education program.

Alix Colehour

Alixandra Colehour

Chair, Human Resources Committee

Vice President of Human Capital, Sleep Number

Alixandra Colehour has more than 25 years of leadership experience in organizations at various stages of business development. Currently vice president of human capital with Sleep Number, she is responsible for building a culture of strategic business partnerships, organizational effectiveness and talent management. She is pursuing a business degree from Capella University and received her certification in executive coaching from the Hudson Institute of Coaching. She has three children and four grandchildren and lives in Minnetonka.

Kate Lovrien

Kate Lovrien

Chair, Strategic Oversight and Initiatives Committee

Principal, Health System Advisors

Kate Lovrien is a principal with Health System Advisors. Her experience in the healthcare industry spans fifteen years, including eleven years as a strategy consultant and four years in biotechnology. She is also a frequent author and speaker on developing system strategies focused on growth, effectiveness, relevance and capabilities as well as physician alignment and ambulatory development. Kate holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Health Administration from the University of Washington. She lives in St. Louis Park with her husband and son.

James Stewart


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 form the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Anna White-Lovely

Anna White-Lovely

Board Secretary

Global Business Communications Director, Cargill Anna White-Lovely is the global business communication director for Cargill’s Energy, Transportation and Metals enterprise and Cargill Risk Management. She has more than 20 years of experience in public relations and marketing, including serving as public relations manager for Select Comfort and spending nine years with CarVal Investors, during which time she launched the CarVal Investors brand. She holds a B.A. in public communication from Luther College and an M.A. in speech communication from the University of Minnesota. Anna lives in Eden Prairie with her husband and three sons, each of whom attended the early childhood education program at St. David’s Center.

Board of Directors, Members at Large

Lisa Bailey

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 creates products that improves lives. A strong believer in building strong relationships and teams which has been the foundation of everything I do both professionally and personally. Lisa loves to spend time with her family outdoors and enjoying beautiful places in Minnesota and around the world.

Curtis Bell

Board Member

Curtis is a certified IT professional with more than 30 years of experience for Fortune 100 companies. He is a strong advocate for foster care and adoption reform and his family supports the Minnesota chapter of Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI-MN), which St. David's Center also champions. Curtis is a husband of more than 30 years, a father of six children, and an active clergy member.

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.

Nate Geske

Board Member

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.

Kristin Madgett

Kristin Schwarze Madgett

Board Member

Chief Operating Officer, Madgett and Peterson, LLC

Kristin Schwarze Madgett is the COO at Madgett and Peterson, a federal civil litigation law firm. She studied neuroscience and developmental psychology at the University of Minnesota and did graduate work in marketing and strategy at Cornell University. Kristin has served in leadership roles with the Junior League of Minneapolis, the LEAD Project, the Minneapolis Club and the Guthrie Theater. She lives in Orono with her husband and their twin boys, who are current students at St. David’s Center.

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

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.

Debbie Stofer

Debbie Stofer

Board Member

Community Volunteer

Debbie Stofer has served as both a volunteer and staff member of the Guardian ad Litem program for Hennepin County, working with hundreds of client families and numerous attorneys, social workers, and service providers as part of being a court advocate for neglected and/or abused children. She also is a group facilitator for the Downtown Coalition for Grief Support, and has volunteered with Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, the University of Minnesota Children’s Cancer Research Fund, and the Edina Board of Health, among others. She holds a bachelor’s in social work from the College of St. Catherine. Debbie lives in Edina with her husband; they have five sons and seven grandchildren.

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.

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