Get to know our leadership team and board of directors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 for the past two years 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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 has been with St. David’s Center since 2009. 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. Lisa 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. She is passionate about early intervention mental health, the powerful influence of reparative relationships as well as reflective supervision and practice. Lisa is dedicated to maintaining St. David's Center’s reputation for innovative, high-quality early intervention treatment for children birth to age 6 and their families.
Lisa received her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Minnesota in 1997. She lives in Bloomington, and shares her life with her wife and three adult children.
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 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.
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.
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 and Parent-Child Therapy program. 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.
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 oversees the Autism Day Treatment and Autism Spectrum Disorder Support Services (ASDSS) programs, as well as Family Place Day Treatment. 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.
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 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.