The MCDA Board of Trustees is a group of elected volunteers who provide leadership for the association.
Trustees serve for a two-year term, during which they attend monthly two-hour Board meetings and participate in working groups.
The MCDA Executive Committee 2019-2020
President: Sharon Balke
Sharon Balke is the Director of Career Education for Strategic Education, Inc., which includes Capella University and Strayer University. She is a graduate of St. Olaf College, and has a Master’s degree in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology from the University of Minnesota. She has been employed as a counselor in a variety of educational settings since 1992, and has been counseling in online programs since 1998. Her career counseling experiences include creating and teaching career planning classes and providing individual career services for students at both the post-secondary and secondary levels. Before joining the Career Center at Capella University in 2008, Sharon was the co-founder and co-director of an award-winning online public high school, where she provided a range of student and parent services and developed online career services. Sharon served on the Board of the Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA) from 2016-2018, and has also served on the Board of the Minnesota College Personnel Association (MCPA). She is a member of the National Career Development Association (NCDA), and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), and has given several presentations at national conferences. In addition, she co-authored an article on online career services, which was published in the Career Planning and Adult Development Journal (Spring 2017).
Outside of the field of career counseling, she’s on the Board of the Minneapolis-Ibaraki (Japan) Sister City Association, and enjoys spending time with her family and playing with her micro-Goldendoodle, Benny!
President Elect: Annie Montemayor
Annie Montemayor is an associate career counselor at Capella University where she helps graduate students navigate career transitions and advancements. Prior to Capella, she worked as a graduate intern for Career Services at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts. A former reporter and higher education communications professional, she transitioned into career counseling after earning her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development in Higher Education from the University of Minnesota. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Kansas. She is a new career professional who was awarded the MCDA Sunny Hansen Graduate Student Award in spring 2018 and is excited to serve MCDA members.
Past President: Donna Bennet
Donna Bennett is a Psychologist and Personal and Professional Development Coach who combines her training in psychology, and her specialty in career and professional development with her experience in corporate, small business, academic (higher education), nonprofit, and professional organizations, to train groups in team-building, leadership development, and career transition, and to coach individuals through the key transitional phases of their careers, including career advancement, job and career transition, and leadership and business skills and development.
Treasurer: Tom Colosimo
Tom Colosimo is the current Treasurer for the MCDA.
Tom currently is career strategist with Wedl Placement Services as well as a Career Architect with Human Capital Partners. Tom has helped many levels of professionals with resume, social media presence and career strategies over the past 15 years.
Prior to working at in his current positions, Tom has done consulting in the corporate recruiting area with companies such as Alorica, Wells Fargo and Indecomm. Tom was a graduate level career coach at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN from 2009-2016. Focus was on resume writing, career training sessions, networking strategies and job placement of MBA students and alums. Tom also has worked within the 3rd party agency recruiting industry for 6 years prior to his work at UST. He has a solid corporate foundation with over 20 years of experience in various finance and accounting professional roles within manufacturing, retail and banking industries.
Other volunteer activities Tom is involved with includes leading the Career Transition Connection job support group at Woodbury Lutheran Church bringing in local and national speakers on the various career topics which he has done since 2002. Tom currently serves on two boards; the Washington County Development Board since 2010 (served as Chair from 2014-2016) and the Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA Treasurer 2014-present).
Tom and his wife Barb reside in Oakdale, MN. They have two daughters; Anna and Emily.
Secretary: Rachel Nihart
Rachel Nihart is an Employer Pathways Onboarding Specialist for Strategic Education, Inc. Through the CVS Health Pathways Partnership, she provides students with information on their educational benefits while also providing support during their enrollment at Capella or Strayer University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Development from the University of Minnesota and is currently obtaining a Master of Arts in Leadership in Student Affairs from St. Thomas University.
The MCDA Board of Trustees 2019-2020
Angela Schmitz, Board Member
Angela has worked in Career Development for 10 years and has always had a strong interest in guiding and assisting individuals in reaching their life goals, including finding the job of their dreams. Angela is currently the Youth Services Coordinator for RMCEP’s Alexandria office where she assists young adults and facilitates SCSEP (Senior Americans), as well. Prior to this position, Angela was the Employment Specialist for both Placement and IPS programs. These positions have allowed her to assist individuals in career exploration, planning, training, and retention while combining her interest in advocating for employment being an integral part of positive mental health. Angela currently sits on the Youth Advisory Council for RMCEP and has been appointed to a chair on the State Council to the Governor for Mental Health. Angela joined NCDA and MCDA after earning GCDF certification in 2019.
Carmen Croonquist, Board Member
As the President of Intentionality Coaching & Consulting Services, Carmen Croonquist has over 29 years’ experience as a coach, counselor, motivational speaker, leader, and entrepreneur. She challenges individuals to become the best creative expressions of themselves by optimizing personal and professional growth. Using brain-based success tools, Carmen helps clients and workshop participants eliminate limiting beliefs and patterns that exist on the subconscious level to achieve an optimal state of overall wellbeing. She is known for being genuine, positive, honest, fun, and resourceful. Carmen has an extensive background in higher education. She previously served as the Director of Career Services at UW-River Falls and Adler Graduate School, created and oversaw a Master’s degree in Career Development & Coaching for Adler Graduate School, and has served as a faculty member at Adler Graduate School,
Metropolitan State University, and Century College. A past-president of the Minnesota Career Development Association (MCDA), Carmen received the prestigious Jules Kerlan Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization in 2008 and is a recipient of the Marty Dockman Merit Award. She has chaired and co-chaired several conferences for MCDA. She was recognized twice by NCDA for her written contributions to the “Career Developments” publication and received The Bridge Award from the Career Thought Leaders. Carmen holds a Master’s degree in Counseling, and is a Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Leadership & Talent Management Coach, Certified Brain-Based Success Coach, Certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach, Speaker & Workshop Leader, Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Certified Social Branding Strategist, Certified Job & Career Transition Coach, and Certified ThetaHealing Practitioner.
Charlie Opatz, Board Member
Charlie Opatz has worked as a career counselor in higher education for ten years – one year as a graduate assistant in the Career Center at the College of Saint Benedict (St. Joseph, MN) and the past nine years at Winona State University (Winona, MN). About seven years ago, he added academic advising to his position and title. Opatz earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Saint John’s University (Collegeville, MN) and his Master’s degree from St. Cloud State University (St. Cloud, MN) in College Counseling and Student Development. He is a certified MBTI and Strong Interest Inventory practitioner and earned his GCDF in 2014. He presented his research on “Transgender Career Development and Employment: Issues and Recommendations” at the MCDA spring 2018 Conference and the NCDA Conference in Phoenix in June 2018. Opatz has also co-presented “Creating a Campus Culture that Celebrates and Retains First Generation Students” at the National Conference of NACADA (National Academic Advising Association) in 2014.
Janis Weller, Board Member
In ten years at McNally Smith College of Music, Dr. Janis Weller served as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs/Head of Liberal Arts and also designed and taught the senior career capstone, Creating a Life in Music (CaLM). Prior to McNally, she taught career development, music, and music business at the University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin River Falls, Augsburg University, St. Thomas University, and served in a number of faculty and administrative roles at MacPhail Center for Music for many years. As a lifelong musician, educator, researcher, and consultant, Janis focuses on the intersections of personal and professional development, helping students and clients of all ages navigate life transitions while building meaningful and sustainable careers and lives. Janis has presented her career development research at conferences around the world with the International Society for Music Education, from Scotland to Kazakhstan, Vietnam to Brazil, and beyond. Most recently, she contributed a book chapter in Leadership and Musician Development in Higher Music Education (Routledge, 2019). Dr. Weller has now returned to the solopreneur world as a career and wellness coach (Mayo Clinic trained and certified), with a holistic focus on self-care, the many dimensions of wellness, and our complex relationships to work. Janis enjoys working with clients in all life stages, especially creatives, those seeking values-based mid-career exploration, and older workers seeking a personal definition of ‘retirement’.
Joseph R. “Jody” Schaber, Board Member
LaBarre Spence, Board Member
My first experience in career development was at an MCDA conference. Members went out of their way to help me feel welcomed and supported right from the start. They generously shared their knowledge and experience with me. The organization has always provided members the opportunity to learn about career development from many diverse points of view. I have participated in the MCDA mentor program for the past two years and enjoyed learning from and sharing in my partners’ development journeys. I am particularly interested in professional development and the ongoing learning MCDA is uniquely positioned to provide. I continue to be passionate about helping people gain clarity and confidence about themselves and their potential through career coaching. I see serving on the MCDA board as an opportunity to continue to grow and contribute to the career development community.
Nancy White, Board Member
Nancy White has been a career counselor and job coach for over 25 years. She has worked in several colleges, the Dislocated Worker program, and currently works for the CareerForce in St Paul. She holds a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She was a previous MCDA Board member which included serving as board president. She is originally from Duluth but now calls the Highland area of St Paul home. She is very dedicated and passionate about her work as a career counselor. In her free time she is an avid swimmer and loves to read and cook. She also leads a brew pub tour group, at her apartment complex, called Women Who Drink Beer!
Patricia Berg was most recently the Owner and Chief Executive Officer of Career Partners International, Twin Cities, a career development and talent management consultancy. She coached leaders in the Executive Transition and Coaching practices, helping them to find meaningful work and enhance their performance. In 2017 she sold the business and serves as the Principal Advisor and Executive Coach to the organization. Patricia’s early career was in Human Resources. She made a significant career change when she joined Personnel Decisions International (PDI) to support their launch of the Career Management practice. In addition to PDI she served as the Vice President of the Individual Effectiveness Practice at Career Dynamics and the Vice President of Outplacement and Field Consulting at Right Management. Patricia has served as a Loaned Executive, taught business education at the post-secondary level, and been the Board Chair of SHiFT, among other career activities. Her undergraduate education is in Business Administration and she has graduate coursework in psychology and counseling. She is a certified coach and was recognized by her industry peers with the Jules Kerlan Award for Outstanding Achievement in Career Development.
Peter Miller, Board Member
Peter’s career has been spent in leadership roles in Human Resources. For the past 15+ years he has served as the Vice President of Human Resources at Connexus Energy. Prior to that, Peter’s HR experience was at three excellent companies: John Deere, The Gillette Company, and Wisconsin Electric Power. In each of these roles, he had generalist roles, developing expertise in employee development, college and at-large recruiting, employee relations, compensation, benefits, etc. Peter’s bachelor’s degree in business is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also earned an MBA from the University of Wisconsin. His primary contribution and perspective would be as an active, employer representative. Peter does career and vocational counseling in his current role. He also established a small not-for-profit service organization called My Career Discovery that supports young adults in their career discovery. He has strong organization, problem solving, and public speaking skills—and the energy to serve the organization and Board.
Rebecca Dordel, Board Member
Rebecca Dordel (she/her) is currently a Senior Career Coach at the Carlson School of Management on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. Previously, she served as a Career Coach in the College of Biological Sciences and as an Academic Advisor in the College of Science and Engineering. Prior to her roles at the University of Minnesota, she was the Assistant Director of Health and Law Professions Advising at the University of Virginia.
Rebecca’s guiding principles in her work are to support students as they build social and cultural capital to effectively navigate, challenge, and re-imagine academic and professional systems.
Rebecca received her Master’s Degree in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University where she combined her interest in both higher education and history to explore how small, private, religiously affiliated institutions used the public forum of collegiate publications to contribute to the dialogue surrounding various political and social movements of the 1960s. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History from the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor, and in her spare time, you can find her consuming podcasts and audiobooks, riding her bike, and hanging out with her partner A.J. and dog, Henry.
Tina Wagner, Board Member
I am an experienced career professional who has helped students, alumni, and others to identify their interests and strengths so they can make successful transitions into the world of work or graduate study. Extensive experience in conducting workshops, providing individual career counseling, and coordinating programs and activities. I believe we all have gifts to share with the world and with thoughtful career planning and by using effective job search strategies, career possibilities become realities. I have worked in the career development field for many years, especially in higher education. Most recently I was the Career Development Director at St. Catherine University in St. Paul. I am inspired by the Sisters of St. Joseph and their living example of serving the good neighbor without distinction. Their values have motivated me to be an advocate for any job seeker and to serve others in a variety of ways. Career development work is important, and we can help people to transform their lives.