CEO/President of The Diversity Institute
Malissa Adams currently serves as the CEO/President of The Diversity Institute. Malissa is a leader with over 15 years of experience working in the public, and private sector as well as the non-profit sector. She has worked with numerous organizations—within the Twin Cities and the broader US—to identify gaps in equity and access, and then to supply them with the tools needed to impact change. As a business consultant and professional development trainer, she brings robust and experienced guidance. Malissa received her B.A. in Business from Rasmussen College and is currently a Graduate student pursuing a Masters in Non-Profit and Public Administration from Metropolitan State University. Malissa has also served as an essential part working with other agencies in the Twin Cities to end homelessness. Malissa is most noted for her ability to motivate others, bridge gaps, and act as a conduit between organizations and underserved communities.
Sandra Agustin, Program Committee Chair
Sandy has an extensive history of arts, social and racial justice, and leadership. She is a native Minnesotan, the youngest child of a Filipino immigrant and 5th generation Euro-Minnesotan. Since the age of 9, she has professionally performed and taught dance, later moving into arts administration as director at Intermedia Arts where she curated, fundraised, managed, and built relationships. She is a former co-artistic core member of Mu Performing Arts where she acted, directed, choreographed over 20 shows, and was an early member of the Asian American Renaissance. She has served as Artistic Director at the Neighborhood House and as Program Officer at the Minnesota State Arts Board helping Legacy dollars to flow into the State. She has been a facilitator-consultant conducting strategic planning to board development and has served on many nonprofit boards including the Minnesota Dance Alliance, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts/MCA, and the Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theatre Company. As a teaching artist through the Children’s Theatre Company, Sandy has been part of a critical in-school literacy program called Neighborhood Bridges and has helped develop curriculum for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old early learners. Sandy is currently a member of a new arts-based evaluation cohort through TerraLuna Collaborative and is an artist-in-residence working with individuals who have experienced drug or alcohol addiction and chronic homelessness.
Birken Law Office
Jess Birken is the owner of Birken Law Office, a law firm that focuses on building and growing strong nonprofits through its unique subscription program, Mission Guardian. Jess helps nonprofits solve problems so they can quit worrying about the paperwork and get back to what matters most – their missions. Before opening Birken Law, Jess was the CEO and Managing Partner of a boutique firm that specialized in serving the nonprofit community. She also spent four years doing federal grants management and administration inside Pheasants Forever. When Jess isn’t helping nonprofits thrive, she enjoys pretending to be a foodie, science fiction, dance music, and helping other lawyers improve their practices through her Hack Your Practice project.
Melvin Clark is an experienced technology executive who drives organizations to surpass expectations, easily navigating both the IT and business worlds, becoming the integral bridge between the two. As the Vice President of IT for Allianz Investment Management, Melvin provides the overall leadership and vision for the company’s technical strategy and Cloud infrastructure to support Allianz’s business objectives as both a steward to standards and the chief change agent. Prior to Allianz, Melvin was a Senior IT Executive at both Delta Airlines and Best Buy. Melvin has a B.A. in Business Management and is a certified Scrum Master. Outside of work, Melvin has served as a mentor and career day speaker for the last three years.
Carolyn Deters, Treasurer
Indelible Aging, Gifts for Seniors
Carolyn comes to the Council with extensive nonprofit administration, finance, and development experience. She is fiercely passionate about alleviating social isolation and leads the charity Gifts for Seniors as Executive Director. Through her consulting practice, Indelible Aging, she is striving to create innovative, inclusive social aging options. Carolyn earned her BBA from the University of St. Thomas, is a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP), and is currently CFRE pursuant having completed the Fundraising Certificate Series at the University of St. Thomas. She considers herself an avid smart giver and actively supports the community by serving in volunteer roles with SHIFT, Community Involvement Programs, and the Nonprofit Financial Group.
Megan Genest Tarnow, Chair
The Mobius Group
Megan Genest Tarnow is founder and Principal of The Mobius Group, a QuickBooks-centric consulting practice that has been focused on nonprofits since 2000. She is a Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional (CNAP), an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and a member of the elite Intuit Trainer/ Writer Network. All of which flowed naturally from her undergraduate theatre degree from Gustavus Adolphus College. She started and admins the popular QuickBooks for Nonprofits group on Facebook. She is crazy passionate about helping nonprofits capture and use their financial data, and is currently focused on automation and bringing back office processes into the 21st Century.
Gregg Larson, Past Chair
Semi-retired, University of Minnesota School of Public Health
Before retirement, Gregg Larson was responsible for the administrative and financial operations of a large infectious disease research network based at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The network conducted clinical trials at more than 200 locations in 35 countries, primarily focused on the treatment of HIV, Influenza and, more recently, Ebola. Prior to his work at the University, Gregg was Executive Director of an interstate compact commission and held environmental positions in Minnesota and North Dakota state governments and a private consulting firm. He has been a national officer in professional organizations, was a City Councilmember for nine years in Arden Hills, and has served on a variety of public and nonprofit boards. He and his partner are long-time supporters of the Council, and Gregg was a member of the Council’s Development Committee for many years.
Garnetta Lowman is an eager community member dedicated to social justice and racial disparities for people of color through education and productive conversations. As an active member of the Facilitating Racial Equity Collaborative (FREC), Garnetta is a volunteer coordinator and sponsorship committee member assisting in the annual production of the Overcoming Racism Conference held each Fall by FREC. Garnetta also enjoys facilitating for the Brandlab on the Fearless Leadership Team by leading exciting workshops around the metro area that address racial inequities within the marketing industry with an open dialogue for participants. Garnetta currently works as an Account Supervisor at Russell Herder where she builds strong relationships as a liaison between the client and the agency. Garnetta has achieved certifications from the University of Minnesota in Project Management as well as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Garnetta has also completed the Nonprofit Organizational Leadership mini MBA and Business Administration degree program at the University of St. Thomas. In her free time, Garnetta enjoys spending time with her friends and two children practicing laughter in everything they do. Garnetta is most happy on sandy beaches with sunny days in moderate humidity eating seafood listening to neo soul.
Stacey Nelson-Kumar, Vice Chair
Stacey Nelson-Kumar serves as Director of Community Impact for Comcast Twin Cities Region where she is responsible for managing charitable giving and community partnerships in an effort to bridge the digital divide. She is also responsible for local implementation of the company’s national day of service, Comcast Cares Day, where more than 1,000 employees and family members volunteer on a single day, and for the region’s Employee Giving Campaign that benefits United Way. Stacey’s career in community relations spans nearly 20 years across several companies, industries, and geographies. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a dual master’s degree in Social Work and Business Administration where she was able to demonstrate her passion for the space where community organizations and for-profit businesses intersect. Stacey also holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family.
Courtney Poja, Governance Committee Chair
Courtney Poja is the Director of Advancement at Cornerstone, a nonprofit serving families and individuals affected by domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking and general crime. She received a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School. In addition to serving as the Chair of the Council’s Governance Committee, Courtney assists with fundraising for LegalCORPS, a nonprofit helping low-income small business owners. She is an avid runner and enjoys volunteering as a coach with Girls on the Run.
Stephen Thompson, Secretary, Audit Committee Chair
Retired – Securian Asset Management, Inc.
Stephen Thompson is an investment officer with Securian Asset Management. Over a 33 year career with Securian, he has worked in consulting, technology, and investment positions. Stephen has an MBA and MS in software engineering. He has served in several volunteer positions with the YMCA Voyager parent-child program and with OTUG, a tech special interest group at the University of St. Thomas. He presently hosts two study groups on MeetUp.com: IdeaEcos for innovation and League of Extraordinary Algorithms for computational intelligence.
Lisa Zellmer joined the board in 2018 and sits on the governance committee. Lisa is the Development Director at WomenVenture, a nonprofit with a mission to help women attain economic self-sufficiency through the creation and growth of profitable and sustainable businesses. In this role, Lisa oversees the organization’s fundraising strategy, including individual and major gifts as well as corporate, foundation and government grants supporting WomenVenture’s work with women entrepreneurs. Previously, she was an independent consultant working with nonprofit leaders to build community partnerships, increase board engagement and plan for diverse and sustainable funding streams. Lisa has also served as Development Director for two Twin Cities nonprofits, Prepare+Prosper and Stages Theatre Company, where she managed all aspects of fund development. Lisa has a BA from St. Olaf College and MA from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends trying new restaurants, going to movies and traveling whenever possible. She never gets tired of walking around Twin Cities lakes or better yet, the lakes and trails up north. Lisa also sits on the board of ARCS Minnesota, another organization she admires.