Board of Directors

Meet the Search Institute Board of Directors

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Yer Chang, M.P.P.

Policy Analyst, Child Safety and Permanence Division Minnesota Department of Human Services

Policy Analyst, Child Safety and Permanence Division
Minnesota Department of Human Services
St. Paul, MN

Yer Chang, M.P.P. is Policy Analyst at Minnesota Department of Human Services, Child Safety and Permanency Division. She currently provides strategic vision, research, and evaluation support to the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) department and conducts performance measurement for the child welfare system, as well as programs across 87 counties and three Initiative Tribes in Minnesota. Yer has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and Bachelor of Science in Political Science from St. Catherine University. She is co-founder of two non-profits, Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together and Professional Hmong Women Association. Yer takes pride in being a former Fulbright Fellow to Thailand, and also currently serves on the Board of Commissioners of the St. Paul Public Housing Agency. As an experienced program evaluator and thought leader, she has worked with government agencies, Tribal Nations, and local nonprofit organizations for diverse and marginalized communities over her career. She has expertise in facilitation, strategic planning, policy analysis, survey development and analysis, quantitative data analysis, and project management. Yer is passionate in creating equitable outcomes for youth, ethical research practices, and meaningful program evaluation to benefit communities. She hopes that what we do today will affect and make a difference seven generations into the future, so when our descendants look back, they can say our ancestors created a better future for us.

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Jim Cuene

Founder and CEO of Fahren LLC

Founder, CEO
Minneapolis, MN

Jim is a broadly experienced digital marketer who knows how to build and market great brands in today’s highly complex marketing landscape. Before founding Fahren, a digital talent consultancy, Jim was the President at GoKart Labs, a leading digital product studio and venture accelerator. He previously led digital marketing at General Mills and Ameriprise Financial. He proudly serves on the board of directors for Search Institute, CaringBridge and the DGS foundation. Jim loves the web and the opportunities it is creating for people and businesses to make the world better. He has an entrepreneurial mindset, the ability to see how the dots will connect in the future, and the knowledge and experience to put plans and teams in place to get results now.

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Ann Curme Shaw

Former SVP of Ethics Officer at Ceridian Corporation

Mediator, Independent Investigator
Minneapolis, MN

Ann Curme Shaw is an attorney and an expert in risk management and ethics. For more than 20 years, Shaw has worked for software developer Ceridian, where she served as Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics Officer.

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Jodi Grant

Executive Director of After School Alliance

Executive Director
Afterschool Alliance
Washington, DC

Jodi Grant is Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit public awareness and advocacy organization working to ensure that all children and youth have access to quality, affordable after school programs. Prior to joining the Afterschool Alliance, Grant served as Director of Work and Family Programs for the National Partnership for Women & Families, where she worked to protect and expand the Family & Medical Leave Act and was a member of the team that successfully defended the law before the U.S. Supreme Court. She also worked on Capitol Hill as General Counsel to the Senate Budget Committee and as Staff Director for a Senate Committee. Her legislative accomplishments include expanded support for the child tax credit, the Child Health Insurance Program, and class size reduction. She also served as liaison to the National Governors’ Association, where she worked closely with Republican and Democratic governors. Grant graduated from Yale University with honors in 1990. She received her law degree from Harvard University. In addition to being on the Board of Search Institute, she is a member of the Coalition for Community Schools Steering Committee and is a Trustee of the America’s Promise Alliance.

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Tom Holman

Director of Morning Foundation

Morning Foundation
Saint Paul, MN

Tom Holman is the Founder and Director of the Morning Foundation, a private foundation established in 1996 to focus on children's education, health, and social services. Previously, Holman was an executive with Dell working in product line management, business management, engineering, global quality assurance, international business development, and IT sales. In nonprofit management, Tom has served as interim Executive Director of Wallin Education Partners and interim Executive Director of the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation. In addition to serving on the Board of Search Institute, he is active in a number of nonprofit organizations including Wallin Education Partners, Junior Achievement, All-In Milwaukee, and GenesysWorks. Holman earned his BSEE in Computer Engineering, MSE in Engineering, and an Executive MBA Certificate, all from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Benjamin Houltberg, Ph.D., LMFT

President and CEO of Search Institute

President and CEO
Search Institute
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Ben Houltberg is a developmental scientist, former tenured faculty member, social entrepreneur, and experienced marriage and family therapist. He is widely published on topics such as adolescent social and emotional competencies, resilience through relationships, and character and identity development through sports. He has successfully led large research teams, consulted with several high-performance organizations to create thriving cultures, and developed tools and resources aimed at promoting resilience through relationships. In his work as a licensed counselor, Ben has worked extensively with youth living in socioeconomic disadvantage. He has served as a family support specialist, adolescent group counselor, vocational counselor and therapist, and practicum and internship clinical supervisor. He has held academic positions at Purdue University–Fort Wayne, Fuller School of Psychology, and the University of Southern California. Ben is also a former NCAA Division I athlete and ran professionally after college. He holds a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Oklahoma State University and an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling from Oral Roberts University.

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Andrea Hunter, Ph.D.

Professor and Chancellor’s Fellow for Campus Climate University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, NC

Dr. Andrea Hunter is an esteemed professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is also the Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Hunter's research explores the linkages between the life course, families, and social structure, as well as broadening research on African Americans, especially families. She has participated in two of Search Institute’s research advisory groups. Dr. Hunter received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University and has been widely published on topics including racial equity and social justice.

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Karen Kingsley

Senior Director of Youth & Family Services at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota

Karen Kingsley is Senior Director of Youth & Family Services at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. In that capacity, she leads a $13 million portfolio of statewide programming that annually serves more than 4,000 youth who have experienced homelessness, are aging out of foster care, are involved in the juvenile justice system, or who have experienced exploitation. Karen has a background in public policy advocacy, systems change, and service delivery dedicated to enhancing the well-being of children, youth, and families. Karen received a graduate degree in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Duke University.

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Steve Kruger

Attorney at Best & Flanagan

Best & Flanagan
Minneapolis, MN

Steve Kruger is a Partner in the Best & Flanagan law firm where he practices in the areas of business, corporate, nonprofit, and tax law. Steve helps closely held businesses, including family businesses, engage in strategic, structural and transition planning. He also works extensively with nonprofit, tax exempt organizations, including private foundations and public charities, on formation, governance and tax matters. He works closely with the firm’s Private Wealth Planning group to develop integrated solutions for issues related to family entities and investments, trust administration and estate planning. His charitable work has included serving on the Board of Directors of nonprofit corporations such as Volunteers of America and Senior Resources, assisting in the formation and governance of several nonprofit corporations, and helping with a church merger. Steve chairs the Minnesota State Advisory Board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He served for ten years on the Heart Advisory Committee for the University of Minnesota Medical Foundation. Steve also has engaged in a number of volunteer and community activities, including serving at his church and coaching youth sports. Steve feels privileged to serve on the Board of Search Institute as it continues its timely and important work in serving youth, families, educational institutions and communities.

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Hedy Lemar Walls, Ed.D.

Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility at YMCA of the North

Executive Vice President of Social Responsibility
YMCA of the North
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Hedy Lemar Walls is the Chief Social Responsibility Officer for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities, providing leadership for sustaining and growing programs and strategies that demonstrate significant community impact on critical issues such as education, poverty, and employment. Dr. Walls has a wealth of experience and knowledge in engaging communities, particularly communities of color, and building long-term relationships and supports; developing collaborations and partnerships with community stakeholders to include for profit and nonprofit organizations. She is responsible for providing leadership for the development of a strategic framework for comprehensive researched based programs, services, and initiatives. She is also an Intercultural Development Inventory Assessment Qualified Administrator (QA). She began her career as a corporate accountant in several corporations. Before coming to the YMCA of the North, Dr. Walls worked in urban and suburban school districts. She held several administrative positions for Minneapolis Public Schools providing leadership in the development, implementation, and assessment of researched-based high quality youth development and parent engagement programs. She holds a BS from Southern University, MBA from the University of Minnesota, MS Specialist from Minnesota State University, and EdD from St. Mary’s University.

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Jen Menke

Vice President Human Resources and Student Success Programs at Scholarship America

Vice President, Human Resources
Scholarship America
Minneapolis, MN

Jen Menke leads Scholarship America’s Human Resources department, helping ensure the organization has a high-quality and engaged workforce that is mission-focused. Having worked with companies such as GE Commercial Finance, Target, and Ceridian, her career prior to Scholarship America led her through a variety of industries with valuable opportunities to work in both large and small organizations. In addition to her HR experience, Jen has gained valuable knowledge in the areas of operations and account management. Before joining Scholarship America, Jen served as the Senior Vice President, Career and Incentive Development at Stream Global Services, where she was responsible for the creation and execution of the Career Hub, a new non-profit organization focused on education and building careers. This experience is what ignited her passion for supporting students, especially those of greatest need to help change the trajectory of their lives. This passion made Search a fantastic opportunity to contribute to an aligned mission. Along with 20 years of experience within the field of Human Resources, Jen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the College of St. Benedict, a Master of Science in Human Resources Management from Purdue University, and a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification.

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Jacson Miller

Deputy Central Point of Contact at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Jacson Miller is a Deputy Central Point of Contact in the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ Department of Supervision, Regulation, and Credit. Jacson is a 16-year veteran of banking supervision, and has focused on the supervision of large banking organizations since 2013. Jacson currently leads a team that is primarily responsible for the supervision and oversight of financial risks of banking organizations with assets greater than $250 billion. Jacson earned a Bachelor’s degree in business management from Purdue University in 2004, and a Masters of Business Administration from Duke University in 2013 with a concentration in finance.

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Maureen Pelton, MSSW, LICSW

Co-founder of ShiftIt Institute, LLC

Co-Founder, The ShiftIt Institute
Operating Partner, Bridge Builders Collaborative
Minneapolis, MN

Maureen is a behavioral scientist with 37 years of professional experience as an Integrative Psychotherapist, Executive Coach, Organizational Consultant, Spiritual Teacher and Group Facilitator. She is Co-Founder of The ShiftIt Institute and a Partner of the Bridge Builders Collaborative. In addition, she has served as host of the Edge Learning Well Talk Radio Show and has taught courses at the Integrative Health Education Center and the Penny George Institute for Health & Healing. Maureen co-created the Health Coaching curricula and taught at The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. She is a thought leader and facilitator of embodiment. Maureen serves on a number of philanthropic social justice boards and advises organizations on how to go deeper. As a disrupter, Maureen is committed to a new social consciousness so that false and limited structures give place to the experience of service and love in the world.

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Maryam Pessaran Garg

Founder of Retail Tech Consulting LLC

A life-long learner, Maryam joined USC Marshall where she had the foresight to launch MODMASK pre-pandemic as a graduate class project. This learning experience turned into a profitable venture, the learnings of which have been shared with students worldwide through the HBR case study and speaking engagements at business schools. Her master's education in entrepreneurship coupled with startup experience motivates Maryam to continue learning and share those learnings, previously as the Director of Blackstone Launchpad at USC and currently as a Principal Venture Consultant at UC Irvine's Entrepreneurship center. She began her career 15 years ago in Digital Marketing, leading a small team of social media and paid search marketers, growing in responsibility over time to manage high-visibility product launches and then developing end-to-end corporate strategy for She leveraged this experience to launch her own Consulting firm (Retail Tech Consulting LLC) providing product and strategy consulting to eCommerce firms. Retail Tech Consulting LLC was directly responsible for the product strategy and execution of launches such as Buy Online Pickup in Store, Same Day Delivery, etc. for Macy's and Bloomingdales.

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Tony Sanneh

Founder and CEO of The Sanneh Foundation

Founder and CEO
The Sanneh Foundation
Saint Paul, MN

Tony Sanneh established The Sanneh Foundation in 2003 to support community-based organizations and to assemble a supportive network within the community that provides positive environments for urban youth to become positive and productive adults. In 2003, while still at the height of his professional career, Mr. Sanneh created The Sanneh Foundation (TSF) to leverage what he saw as soccer’s unique potential to create positive social change for youth. However, it wasn’t until officially retiring from professional soccer in 2010 and becoming the organization’s full-time President and CEO that TSF began its meteoric growth. Tony believes in giving all children the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed and with The Sanneh Foundation, he seeks to accomplish that goal through its programs, partnerships and events. The Sanneh Foundation's mission is to empower youth by supporting and promoting educational attainment through in-school and after-school support, improve lives by providing programs that strengthen physical health and social & emotional development, and unite communities by advancing diversity, equity and community well-being. Tony is excited to serve on the Search Board because he believes their work that is centered around developmental relationships helps give our young people SEL competencies that improve their well-being.

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Keisha Varma, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at University of Minnesota

Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN

Keisha Varma, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the psychological foundations of education program at the University of Minnesota. Varma’s research examines cognitive processes in science learning, as well as teacher knowledge development and effective teaching practice. She holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.