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Keynote speakers

Conference welcome

dean bev durgan

Bev Durgan
Dean, University of Minnesota Extension

Beverly R. Durgan has dedicated her career to connecting University of Minnesota Extension and research with the citizens of Minnesota. As dean of University of Minnesota Extension, she leads a team of more than 800 employees who deliver practical and useful research-based education and information to Minnesotans.

Before becoming dean in 2005, she oversaw agricultural research and held several administrative positions at the University. She holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, where she is a weed scientist focused on small grains and specialty crops.  Dean Durgan is widely known as a national leader in her academic discipline, as well as in Extension and academic organizations.

A native of Montana, she was raised on an irrigated corn and small-grain farm. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business management at Montana State University and master’s and doctorate degrees in agronomy from North Dakota State University.

Keynote — Changing what health means in America

Richard Besser

Dr. Besser Besser
President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Dr. Besser, M.D., is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a position he assumed in April 2017. Dr. Besser is the former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and former chief health and medical editor with ABC News.

At RWJF, Dr. Besser leads the largest private foundation in the country devoted solely to improving the nation's health. RWJF's work is focused on building a comprehensive Culture of Health that provides everyone in America with the opportunity to live the healthiest life possible, regardless of finances, geographic location, race, ethnicity, or physical challenges. Access to healthy food, safe housing, employment, transportation, and education, as well as clean air and water are all important contributors to health and well-being.

In Dr. Besser's role at ABC News, he provided medical analysis and reports for all ABC News programs and platforms. His weekly health chats on social media reached millions.

Before joining ABC News in 2009, Dr. Besser worked as director of the CDC's Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. In that role he was responsible for all of the CDC's public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. He also served as acting director of the CDC from January to June 2009, during which time he led the CDC's response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.

Dr. Besser's tenure at the CDC began in 1991 working on the epidemiology of foodborne illness. He then served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego, as the pediatric residency director, while also conducting research and working for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to the CDC in 1998 as an infectious disease epidemiologist working on pneumonia, antibiotic resistance and the control of antibiotic overuse.

Dr. Besser received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Williams College and medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. His book, "Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions," was published by Hyperion in 2013.

Jennifer Sirangelo

Jennifer Sirangelo
President & CEO, National 4-H Council

Jennifer is a believer in young people and their capacity to change the world. She leads National 4-H Council in its mission to increase investment and participation in high-quality 4-H positive youth development programs.

Jennifer joined National 4-H Council in 2006 to grow support for America's largest youth development organization. The Council is the non-profit partner to the Cooperative Extension Systems 4-H movement, supporting leadership development for nearly six million young people in the United States. The movement does so through diverse and inclusive programs in agriculture, science, citizenship and health accomplished via alliances with America's philanthropic sector.

In 2017, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation's largest health philanthropy, awarded National 4 H Council a $4.6 million grant to improve the health of 1,000 communities across the country over 10 years. Phase 1 of the Culture of Health Initiative is currently underway in partnership with numerous land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension, which serves every county and parish in the United States. The initiative is focused on empowering community based health councils to develop and implement action plans that ensure all community members are healthier at every stage of life. The initiative emphasizes engagement with youth.

A Missouri native, Jennifer received a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and political science from William Jewell College, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse University. She also attended St. Peter's College at Oxford University. As an undergraduate, she was recognized as a Harry S. Truman Scholar.

Keynote — Shared work: Working across difference over time

Tuesday Ryan-Hart

Tuesday Ryan-Hart
Co-founder and President, Tuesday Ryan-Hart, LLC

Tuesday is a host and facilitator who left the fields of traditional social service provision and academics to become a new kind of change maker, partnering with community builders around the world. Her work in community is featured in the book, “Walk Out Walk On” by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze. She is known internationally for her strategic work with organizations and communities engaged in systemic change.

Trained as a clinical social worker, with a bachelor’s degree in individual and family studies and a master's degree in social work, Tuesday is an expert in transformational work. She specializes in helping individuals, community non-profits, governmental agencies, and organizations of all sizes undergo the changes that will help them change and become more successful.

With a passion for social justice and expertise in gender and race equity, as well as anti-violence work, Tuesday excels at working with groups to enhance awareness and understanding, build alliances, and share long term work together. Tuesday is a steward of the Art of Hosting global community of practice, former board member of the Berkana Institute, mother of two school-age children, and a long-distance runner who recently ran her first ultra-marathon.

Tim Merry

Tim Merry
Engagement Specialist and Systems Change Facilitator

Tim has been supporting diverse stakeholders to come together to launch, sustain and grow innovative initiatives for 20 years. He has extensive experience working with major international businesses, government agencies, local communities, and regional collaborative organizations. All his work is rooted in the belief that if the right conditions are created, people will organize together and solve their own problems.

Tim designs, delivers and trains tailor-made processes where stakeholder voice is key to creating the systems, structure and services that meet the needs of all involved. He is a popular public speaker, panelist and commentator, appearing in the media and writing a column for his community’s paper. Tim is one of the co-founders of the Art of Hosting global community of practice and initiated the Art of Hosting Beyond the Basics training. He has been a supporter and board member of the Berkana Institute, and is a co-founder of the Hub South Shore in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.

Tim founded the Split Rock Learning Centre, a youth drop in centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and co-founded the Engage! InterAct training organization in the Netherlands. He also is a core team member of NOW Lunenburg County, a citizen-led change initiative in the Mahone Bay area.

Keynote — Engaging Communities as partners to achieve health equity

America Bracho

America Bracho
Executive Director, Latino Health Access

America Bracho, M.D., is the executive director of Latino Health Access, a center for health promotion and disease prevention in Santa Ana, Calif. Latino Health Access facilitates mechanisms of empowerment for the community and trains community health workers as leaders of wellness and change through an innovative system of promotores. America worked as a physician in her native Venezuela for several years before coming to the United States to obtain a master’s degree in public health at the University of Michigan.

America is a member of the Board of Trustees for Casey Family Programs and a former trustee of the Marguerite Casey Foundation. She also has served on the Institute of Medicine Round Table on Health Disparities and on the Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Local Initiative Program. She has been featured in several documentaries, including the HBO special “The Weight of the Nation” and a TedMed Talk on the role of patients in improving health care and their communities. She is a co-author of the book “Recruiting the Heart and Training the Brain: The Work of Latino Health Access” published in May 2016.

Priester Awards Luncheon and Keynote — We Cannot Treat Our Way Out of the Problem of Mental Illness: Promotion and Protection of Positive Mental Health

Corey Keyes

Corey Keyes
Professor of Sociology, Emory University

Corey Keyes, Ph.D.,is a professor of sociology at Emory University where he holds the Winship Distinguished Research Professorship. Corey was a member of a MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development. He also co-chaired—along with Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association, and other pioneers in the positive psychology movement— the First Summit of Positive Psychology held in 1999. Corey is a founding member of the Society for the Study of Human Development, a participant in the 2007 National Academies Keck Future’s Initiative Conference, “The Future of Human Healthspan,” and was a contributing author to the World Health Organization’s publication, Mental Health Promotion Worldwide.

Keynote — Brain development, health and economic growth in the context of poverty

Megan Gunnar

Megan R. Gunnar
Director, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota

Megan R. Gunnar, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. She is a Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor. Megan received her doctorate in developmental psychology at Stanford University in 1978 and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in stress neurobiology at Stanford Medical School. In fall 1979 she joined the University of Minnesota faculty as an assistant professor, then moved through the ranks to full professor in 1990.

Megan has spent her career studying how stress affects human brain and behavioral development and the processes that help children regulate stress. She also is the co-director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Development at the University of Minnesota. Megan is a recipient  several lifetime achievement awards from national organizations. In addition, she is involved in many activities to translate research on early development for use by policy makers, practitioners and families.

Rob Grunewald

Rob Grunewald
Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Rob Grunewald is an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Grunewald conducts research on community development and regional economic issues. He co-authored “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return” for the Fed Gazette newsletter in 2003 and has written several other articles on the economic and social impact of early learning. He frequently speaks to community and business leaders, policymakers, and media throughout the United States.

Rob has served on boards and advisory committees for organizations involved with early childhood development, including Think Small: Leaders in Early Learning, First Children’s Finance, and the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency. He is also a past president of the Minnesota Economic Association. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and religion from St. Olaf College and a master’s degree in applied economics from the University of Minnesota.

Keynote — From a street kid to building program evidence: My story and what it means for our collective work

Mary Marczak

Mary Marczak
Director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation, University of MInnesota Extension

Mary Marczak, Ph.D., is the director of Urban Family Development and Evaluation with the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development. In her role, she leads ethnically and racially diverse staff across critical health-related content areas of nutrition, child wellbeing, and children’s mental health. For over 20 years, Mary has evaluated more than 70 programs, including national and statewide initiatives as well as local programs run by small, non-profit organizations.

With a strong emphasis on an ecological framework for designing evaluations, Mary is experienced in evaluating participatory processes with diverse communities, including woodland and plains tribal, Latino, and new immigrant communities. Her current research is focused on understanding effective programmatic strategies for working with traditionally under-served and under-resourced communities.

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