Vickie Choitz is a senior policy analyst on the Workforce Development team at CLASP. She focuses on state and federal policies that increase access to and success in workforce development and postsecondary education for low-income, lower-skilled adults. She provides technical assistance to state agencies on postsecondary, workforce, and career pathways policies and funding. Ms. Choitz also analyzes and advocates for federal and state workforce and postsecondary education policies that help low-income, lower-skilled adults access education, postsecondary credentials, and family-sustaining careers. Previously, Ms. Choitz was a senior policy analyst at Jobs for the Future and the State Policy Director for the Lifelong Learning Account (LiLA) program at the Council for Adult and Experimental Learning. She has undergraduate degrees in political science and secondary education from Kansas State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Colleen Ebinger is the owner of Colleen Ebinger Consulting LLC and executive director of the Social Enterprise Alliance–Twin Cities. She is a strategy, policy, and communications consultant to social-purpose organizations and has worked with nonprofits, governments, foundations, and cross-sector partnerships in nine U.S. states and four countries. Recent clients include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Louisiana Office of Social Entrepreneurship, and New Mexico Center for Philanthropic Partnerships. She has authored several publications on the intersection of politics, policy, and social innovation and speaks internationally on the topic. Colleen holds a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, attending on a Reynolds Fellowship. She is a graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, a proud Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Honduras), and a partner with Social Venture Partners Minnesota.
Karen Francois is the director of Employment Equity for the City of Minneapolis responsible for leading the ongoing efforts of the City to mitigate racial disparities in employment. In this role she developed, implemented and directs the City’s Urban Scholars Program, a leadership development program designed to introduce college students from diverse backgrounds to careers in the public sector. In addition, she is part of the development team for the City’s Digital Equity program to bridge the digital divide in the City. Karen also represents the City of Minneapolis in the Everybody In regional collaborative to reduce employment disparities and Skills@Work, a statewide campaign to ensure Minnesota has the skilled workforce it needs to compete in the global economy.
Karen spent 5 years (from 2006 – 2011) in India as director of Women’s Empowerment Thru Enterprise and Jacobs Well, the community development project of an Indian organization focused on anti-human trafficking. Prior to that, she was the associate director of Women and Philanthropy at UCLA. Before going to UCLA she was director of program development for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights during which time she led the development of the Minnesota Human Rights Education program.
Nick Maryns is the Senior Policy Analyst for the Governor’s Workforce Development Council (GWDC). Nick facilitates the GWDC’s policy development committees and leads up research, analysis, and writing for the Council’s policy initiatives. In addition, Nick staffs the GWDC’s Return on Investment Initiative, which is developing an ROI framework for the state’s workforce education and training programs. Prior to working for the GWDC, Nick was a fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center in Washington, DC and an Americorps volunteer in the Minneapolis Public Schools. He has a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Brian Paulson is director of innovation strategies at Greater Twin Cities United Way. He has 10 years experience in the social service sector in a variety of positions, from direct practice social work with low income children and families, to more macro practice social work in managing programs, program development and grant making. Brian coordinates United Way’s work in measuring Return on Investment, pay-for-performance models, career pathway programs for low-income populations, and social enterprise. He is also actively engaged in multiple system change efforts related to workforce development including FastTRAC, the Governor’s Workforce Development Council ROI Analysis, and Heading Home Hennepin and Ramsey efforts focused on employment outcomes for homeless community members. Brian is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work with a focus on community practice social work.
Dane Smith is the president of Growth & Justice, a policy research organization that seeks a broader prosperity for Minnesota through smarter public investments in human capital and infrastructure. Prior to joining Growth & Justice, Dane enjoyed a 30-year career as a Minnesota journalist, where he wrote about state, local and federal government and politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.