Staff and Board of Directors

Executive Director: Karen Blackburn, B.S. Economics, Yale University.  Blandin Leadership Graduate, Treasurer of Great Expectations Foundation and Booster Club Board member.  Past boards in Cook County: Grand Marais Playhouse, Grand Marais Art Colony, Cook County Soccer, Cook County Local Energy Project, North Shore Hospital, Cook County Higher Education, and Cooperation Station Daycare.  Completed accounting coursework at Upper Iowa University through distance learning and used that education during the last 15 years of her career: Controller at Lutsen Mountains for 10 years, three years as Financial Coordinator at Cook County and 15 years of private bookkeeping for local non-profits and businesses. Ms. Blackburn has worked for CCHE since 2017. 

Program Director: Kelsey Rogers Kennedy, CCHS Graduate, B.A. Social Marketing, Northern Michigan University; M.S. Organizational Leadership, St. Mary’s University. Two years of K-12 substitute teaching  and seven years of experience working in a college environment; former administration assistant/registrar, career services advisor, and career development instructor at Rasmussen College. She is also a Blandin Leadership Graduate. She has coordinated Empty Bowls in 2013, 2014, and 2015. She is passionate about quality education being accessible to all regardless of location. Ms. Rogers Kennedy has worked for CCHE since 2012.

Student Services Coordinator: Meet Lenna, the new CCHE Student Services Coordinator.

She grew up in Cook County and graduated from the University of MN with a B.A. in English Literature. She loves to learn, travel, eat good food, swim, and camp.

She’s here to assist with the nitty gritty of the education process. If you have challenges, questions or just want to talk to someone about your progress, you can reach her at, or call/stop by the office.

Her office hours:
Monday: 9:30-5
Wednesday: 10-3
Thursday: 9:30-5
Started June, 2019. 

Outreach Coordinator: Carly Puch, CCHS Graduate, B.A. Sociology & Women’s Studies, Augsburg College; M.S. Social Responsibility, Saint Cloud State University. Carly brings experience working on a college campus as an advocate for trauma survivors and an enthusiasm for higher education to CCHE. She also teaches yoga in town and loves to write about healthy, sustainable living on her site, Consciously Carly. She loves working to connect people with resources that allow them to find their passion on this journey. Carly has worked for CCHE since June, 2019.


Board President: Janice Latz, B.Ch.E. from Georgia Institute of Technology.  Retired in 2014 from Huntsman Corporation, The Woodlands, Texas. She held positions in engineering, technical service, business management, and most recently as a senior executive responsible for Operations in the Performance Products division. She has served on the Board of Directors for the American Cleaning Institute.

Vice Chair: Donna Paine received her B.S. in Business Administration from University of Wisconsin Platteville via distance education.  Donna also has an Accounting Clerk diploma from Lake Superior College and is currently employed at the Grand Marais State Bank as Assistant Vice-President.  Donna is also Treasurer of the Cook County Salvation Army Service Unit.

Treasurer: Roger Opp, B.S. Agricultural Economics, University of Minnesota. He retired in 2011 from CoBank ACB where he managed a $350 million portfolio of loans to rural telecommunications cooperatives and companies. Currently chairman of Hamm Clinic, Community Learning International, and serves on the board and executive committee of Art Space Projects, Inc.

Secretary: Mary Louise Fellows, B.B.A. (Accounting) and J.D. (University of Michigan) and Ph.D. in English Literature with a concentration in Anglo-Saxon Studies (University of Minnesota). Holding a position as the Everett Fraser Professor of Law, she taught at the University of Minnesota Law School from 1990 until her retirement in 2009. Her areas of teaching and scholarship were tax, estate planning, law and literature, and feminist legal theory.

Board Member: Dr. Karen Halbersleben, B.A., M.A.., and Ph.D. in European History, U. of NY, Buffalo; 2002- 2009 President of Northland College in Ashland, WI; held academic positions at SUNY-Oswego, the U. of Richmond, and Buena Vista U.; currently serves on the Board of the Cook County Community Foundation; she and her husband Jack Miller volunteer with Meals on Wheels deliveries.

Board Member: Clair Nalezny, BES from St. Cloud State University, Management and Human Resources; Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR) certificate from HR Certification Institute; Currently Human Resource Director for Lutsen Resort since 2004. First General Manager of Papa Charlie's, Lutsen Mountains.

Board Member: Douglas Bruce, Retired Continuing Education & Contract Training Program Director, Normandale College; BA. U of MN; MA U of Wisc.; Board experience includes Izaak Walton League; Chairman of the Planning Commission, Bloomington; Minnesota Brain Injury Association; Traumatic Brain Injury MN Dept of Human Services.

Board Member: Dr. William Youmans, M.D., B.S. Wildlife Biology, Michigan State University. He practiced family medicine in Minneapolis from 1980 until he retired in 2016. He was a Clinical Professor at the University of Minnesota, 1991-2009 and served as Chief of Staff and on the Board of North Memorial Medical Center. Currently he is a board director of MMIC, a mutual medical professional liability insurance company since 2001. Bill balances his time between homes in the Twin Cities and Grand Marais and joined the board of CCHE in 2017.

Board Member: David M. Coleman, B.S. Chemistry,Southern Illinois University; and Ph.D. Analytical Chemistry, University of Wisconsin. He served as a Professor in the Chemistry Department at Wayne State University 1977 until he retired. He is the author of more than 75 technical publications, book chapters, etc. in the field of atomic spectroscopy. Professional affiliations include the international Society for Applied Spectroscopy (SAS/Past President); the Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies (FACSS/Past Governing Board Chairman); and the Association of Analytical Chemists (ANACHEM/Past President). He is a past co-Editor- in-Chief of Critical Reviews in Analytical Chemistry. He and his wife, Dr. Patricia Coleman have a remote retirement home on Clearwater Lake adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). He is currently president of the Clearwater Lake Property Owners Assn., on the Bishop’s Committee of the Spirit of the Wilderness Episcopal Church, a member of the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway Advisory Committee, and a musician in a few local ensembles.  

Board Member: Sue Hakes lives in Grand Marais where she served as Cook County Commissioner and Mayor of Grand Marais. In 2014, Hakes was awarded a 2-year Bush Foundation Fellowship to build women’s leadership in rural, northeastern Minnesota. A graduate of Augsburg College, Hakes used her Bush Fellowship to study at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Prior to her political leadership, Sue was the owner/broker of Sue Hakes Realty in Grand Marais and enjoyed a successful career in Business Development at Honeywell in Minneapolis. Currently, Hakes is delighted to work part-time at the Cook County YMCA and volunteer in her community. She is married to John Gorski, formerly of Eveleth, MN. Joined the CCHE Board 2019. 

Volunteers, Mentors, and Instructors:
Continuously throughout Cook County Higher Education’s history, the program has been supported through the volunteer time and efforts of board members, staff, and community members.  CCHE has seven active mentors (some of whom are paid for their service and others who volunteer their time) plus over forty mentors on record. CCHE pays a stipend to mentors, but many elect to volunteer their time.  CCHE also engages local instructors for college courses and workshops.

Scholarship Committee: Bob Morrison, Mike Carlson, Jean Cochrane, Bob Pranis, Karen Blackburn.

Jean Cochrane, Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C., working from Grand Marais, MN; B.S. Natural Resources, University of Michigan; M.S. Zoology and Physiology, University of Wyoming; Ph.D. Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota. 

Current Non-board Committee Members: Barb Heideman, Jean Cochrane, Mike Carlson.

Past Committee Members: Deb Skinner, Thelma Hedstrom, David Quick, Virginia Danfelt Martin, Helen Muth, Carol Miller, Bob Pratt.

Previous Board Memebers: 
Dr. Robert Pranis (****-2018)
Janet Ditmanson
Carol Mork 
Patricia Campanaro (2014 – 2015)
Rena Rogers (2008 – 2015)
Andy Rysdahl (2013 – 2015)
Adam Nelson (2013 – 2015)
Maggie Barnard (2011 – 2013)
Beth Rogers Kennedy (2010 – 2014)
CeCe Olson (H.S. student) (2010 – 2012)
Will Brandenberg (H.S. student) (2010 – 2011)
Carly Puch (H.S. student) (2008 – 2010)
Marie Nordahl (H.S. student) (2008 – 2009)
Bob Pratt (2006 – 2014)
Mike Carlson (1999 – 2006)
Gwen Carman (1998 – 2003) (2006 – 2013)
Julie Brandt (1998 – 2004)
Rita Plourde (1996 – 2006)
Wes Hedstrom (1996 – 2003)
Diane Booth (1996 – 1999) (2003 – 2005)
Carolyn Steel (1996 – 2002)
Mary Junnila (1996 – 2001)
Jay Anderson (1996 – 2000)
Rosie Novitsky (1996 – 1999)
Karen Blackburn (1996 – 2001)

Previous Advisory Council Members: 
Mike Carlson (1999 – 2006)
Gwen Carman (1998 – 2003) (2006 – 2013)
Julie Brandt (1998 – 2004)
Rita Plourde (1996 – 2006)
Wes Hedstrom (1996 – 2003)
Diane Booth (1996 – 1999) (2003 – 2005)
Carolyn Steel (1996 – 2002)
Mary Junnila (1996 – 2001)
Jay Anderson (1996 – 2000)
Rosie Novitsky (1996 – 1999)
Karen Blackburn (1996 – 2001)

Former Staff:
Paula Sundet Wolf (2017) Development Director
Paula Sundet Wolf  (1997-2017) Executive Director 
Laurel Wilson (2018-2019) Student Services Coordinator
Sarah Stover (2015-2018) Student Services Coordinator
Mindy Silence Data Management
Kirstin van den Berg (2006-2014) Student Services and Education Director
Jim Boyd (2011-2012) Business Training
Sheryl Hinderman (2005-2005) Student Services
Kelly Rauzi (2004-2004) Student Services
Marce Wood (2000-2003) Student Services
Jean Marie Modl (1996-1999) Director; (2009-2010) Assistant
Linda Lamb (1996-1996) Student Services
Carol Allis (1996-1996) Director

Former Interns & NEOJT:
Amanda Olson (2015 – 2016) HCC Intern - social work
Melody McClure (2016) NEOJT - data entry/events
Tyan (NiKki) Agnew (2010-2010) NEOJT - assistant
Paige Reeves (1998-1998) Grant Writing

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