link to: University of Minnesota

Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities

Meet the LEND Fellows

Meet the Class of 2016-17
Meet the Class of 2015-16
Meet the Class of 2014-15
Meet the Class of 2013-14
Meet the Class of 2012-13
Meet the Class of 2011-12

LEND Class of 2017-18

Nimo Ahmed

Nimo Ahmed

Nimo received her Bachelors of Science in Community Health Education from North Dakota State University. Since then, she has worked for the University of Minnesota in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Her work includes different types of research projects addressing mental health, childhood obesity, resilience, cancer screening and adolescent health. Currently, she is in the Masters of Nursing program and will be completing in the Fall. She intends to continue her education and receive a Doctor of Nurse practice. With MNLEND fellowship, she hopes to learn more about neurodevelopmental and related disabilities that she can use in her career as a nurse.
Kathryn Anderson

Kathryn Anderson

Katie is a third year dental student at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry working on her Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Chemistry and Business, with a focus on Entrepreneurial Management. She is president of the University's American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) chapter- a group that is committed to providing care to people with neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual disabilities. Through AADMD and the American Student Dental Association she participates at Special Smiles - a dental initiative that provides oral screenings, mouth guards, and hygiene education to athletes and their families. During the summer, she volunteers with Kid's Abilities Pediatric Therapy program coaching some spunky and sporty kids with special needs. Katie is passionate about identifying and eliminating barriers to care and fostering clinical practices that best serve patients with disabilities. In her free time Katie enjoys yoga, cuddling with her kitties, football Sundays and experimenting in the kitchen.
Bridget Binstock

Bridget Binstock

Bridget has been an educator for the past 25 years. She has worked both in a traditional classroom as well as an online interactive classroom. Most recently, she has been working in the educational publishing space developing digital science curriculum. She has a special needs son, Nathan, who is her inspiration for curriculum development and the catalyst for her participation in the LEND program. As a Fellow, she hopes to learn how neurodevelopmental disabilities should inform how curriculum is developed and what policies at the state and national level impact how schools currently teach those students with these disabilities.
Stacey Brandjord

Stacey Brandjord

Stacey is a second year graduate student in the School Psychology program at the University of Minnesota. She previously received her M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Wichita State University. Stacey worked as an elementary school Speech-Language Pathologist. While working with her students, she realized her passions included systems-level change in schools and the social-emotional health of all students. Her research interests include the intersection between language and behavior in schools as well as creating a successful environment for all students to succeed. Through the LEND program, Stacey looks to expand her clinical skills and tie those skills directly to closing the gap between evidence-based research and practice in the school system.
Kaysie Bergum

Kaysie Bergum

Kaysie is a second-year graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Minnesota. Her concentration is Families and Children and she is a Title IV-E Child Welfare Fellow. Previously, she received her Bachelor’s degrees in Criminology and Psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth. This past summer she interned with the Initial Intervention Unit in child protection services in St. Louis County and will be placed in the Investigations Unit in child protection services in Hennepin County for her concentration field placement. After her schooling, she will be pursuing a position within the child protection field where she hopes to utilize all she has learned through LEND to better serve the children and families that she will work with.
Pang Chaxiong

Pang Chaxiong

Pang Chaxiong is a 2nd year graduate student pursuing her Master’s and Ph.D. in Special Education. She received her BA in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Coming from a Hmong refugee family and growing up with a brother with autism, Pang’s research interest surrounds the intersection of culture and autism, particularly how culture influences autism diagnoses, treatment decisions, and access to resources. Pang’s hope is that her work will help with earlier detection of autism and promote the use of evidence-based practices in marginalized, minority populations. As a LEND fellow, Pang looks forward to the unique interdisciplinary training and learning opportunities and to be surrounded by fellows who also have a passion for working with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Eleanor Chenoweth

Eleanor Chenoweth

Elle Chenoweth is a MN LEND Community Fellow who recently graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Hearing Sciences. Elle is currently working as a nanny and hopes to work for Minneapolis Public Schools as a Special Education Assistant in the fall. She is passionate about improving access to services for families who have children with special needs. She has experience working with children with autism and communication disorders at Fraser and at a speech therapy clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. As a LEND Fellow, she is interested in learning more about how autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities impact families and how to provide patient-centered intervention for children. Elle is planning on attending graduate school for Speech Language Pathology in the future and hopes to have a career working as a speech pathologist in an urban school district setting.
Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca is in her final year of study for a Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology at University of Minnesota. She previously received a BA in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from Calvin College in Michigan. There, she worked with the homeless population and formed a new student organization through which speech-language pathology students volunteered at a local homeless shelter to promote reading and literacy development in the homeless youth population. Rebecca intends to continue advocating for minority and at-risk populations who are less likely to receive quality health services. She is excited to be apart of LEND and to learn more about the public policies that give citizens equal access to services and ways she can further serve this population.
Beth Dierker

Beth Dierker

Beth Dierker, Ph.D., is a parent of two young children, a writer, and an independent consultant utilizing community-engaged and participatory approaches in her research and evaluation. As she’s navigated community, school, and family life with a child on the autism spectrum, Beth has found hope and solidarity in writing about her experiences and connecting with parents, families, educators, and therapists affected by autism and/or working with children on the spectrum. She is a neurodiversity advocate at her child's school and serves as an advisor and contributing writer with the Center for Engaging Autism. As owner of Waymarks Consulting, Beth supports organizational learning and community wellness by engaging stakeholders in critical examinations of their work while leveraging community knowledge in support of partnerships and innovations. Beth hopes to bring these professional experiences to her LEND fellowship. She looks forward to engaging parents and families affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities in identifying assets as well as gaps where further support is needed.
Adele Dimian

Adele Dimian

Adele completed her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in Educational Psychology, Special Education with a minor in Epidemiology. She received a B.A. degree from the University of Puget Sound in Psychology and a M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Adele has worked on several federally funded research grants during her doctoral training for assessment and intervention of challenging behavior among individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. She co-created the Telepresence Behavior Laboratory and is interested in examining how telehealth can be used as a service delivery mechanism. Adele's primary areas of research include: 1) investigating the early development of self-injurious behavior, 2) assessment and intervention of potentially communicative and challenging behavior, and 3) examining how telehealth can bridge the gaps in service delivery early on for families and individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities. Through the MNLEND post-doctoral fellowship, Adele hopes to expand her dissertation research on the impact of a delay to early intensive behavioral intervention services for young children with autism spectrum disorder in Minnesota.
Teresa Eide

Teresa Eide

Teresa Eide is a nursing instructor with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from St. Catherine University. For many years, Teresa was a licensed school nurse in the metro area, working closely with children and families to manage chronic health conditions and decrease health-related barriers to education. Teresa is the mother of four children, one of whom has Down syndrome. This experience has brought her family much joy as well as some challenges. She looks forward to her LEND experience, hoping to work with others in the community to expand opportunities for inclusion in ways which ensure all members feel welcomed.
Emily Furl

Emily Furl

Emily is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who completed both her undergraduate and professional education at the Ohio State University. She has worked with childhood disability through early intervention, outpatient therapy, Go Baby Go, and international service. She is the current pediatric physical therapy resident at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare and plans to become a Board Certified Specialist in Pediatrics in July 2018. Emily is passionate about learning how to better advocate for children and individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families; and developing a greater understanding of family-centered care through the LEND program.
Nancy Gonzalez

Nancy Gonzalez

Nancy has Masters of Science in Management from Troy State and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and Bachelor of Arts degree International Relations specializing in the area of Intercultural Communications from the University of Minnesota. She is also a mother of a 22 year old young man with high functioning Autism/Asperger. Nancy made a career change from finance to working as a Paraprofessional at Lionsgate Academy (LGA), a public charter school for students on the Autism spectrum for students in middle school, high school and a transitional program. Nancy worked at LGA for 5 years in various paraprofessional capacities. Recently, she has been working for the 196 ISD at Echo Park Elementary School as a paraprofessional on a 1:1 basis. Nancy is currently researching graduate degrees in social welfare and board-certified behavior analyst at the University of Minnesota. Nancy hopes to gain clarity through the fellowship experience so that it may help her in her decision. Nancy is especially interested in the minority populations of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families, concentrating in the area of Hispanic and Native American populations. Nancy and her son are members on the board of Minnesota-Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (MN-ADDM) and represent the Hispanic community as self-advocates. Nancy and her family are bilingual and have been invited to collaborate on an Autism awareness video in Spanish by the Institute on Community Integration. During this fellowship year Nancy plans to focus on the importance of cultural competency, family-centered care, developing others through teaching learning, and working with community systems. Nancy’s experience in working at Echo Park Elementary school only reinforces her belief that there is a great need that is not being met to underserved children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families. Nancy hopes to learn more about all the stake holders so that she can bridge various gaps.
Jaclyn Gunderson

Jaclyn Gunderson

Jaclyn is a first year Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology-Special Education. Jaclyn is passionate about working in the ASD community. She is currently the Autism Network Coordinator for the Autism Research Program in the Psychiatry Department of the University of Minnesota. She has a Masters in Counseling and Psychological Services from Saint Mary’s University and over 7 years of experience in early intervention autism treatment. Jaclyn hopes to work with children in early education settings and provide valuable research knowledge to early intervention practices.
Libby Hallas-Muchow

Libby Hallas-Muchow

Libby is currently a Research Manager at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI). She completed a BA in English, and an MS in Security Technologies at the University of Minnesota. In her role at the ICI, she manages the CDC-funded Minnesota-Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring (ADDM) Network project, which identifies the prevalence of autism for children in Minnesota, as well as contributes to national ASD prevalence estimates. She finds contributing to national datasets that improve the lives of people with disabilities fulfilling.

Through the LEND program, Libby is excited to learn more about the people and systems that contribute to, and are impacted by, the data she works with on a daily basis. She would like to explore how data can continually inform and improve those systems. She hopes to gain leadership skills, and increase her knowledge about autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. She also looks forward to learning from her peers, and gaining insight into disability from an interdisciplinary perspective.
Kate Holzer

Kate Holzer

Kate is a second year graduate student in the Genetic Counseling program at the University of Minnesota. She received her B.A. in biology from the College of St. Benedict in 2011. Before graduate school, she volunteered as a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center, as a Resource Counseling Advocate at a domestic violence shelter, and as a coach with Special Olympics. She continues to volunteer at events supporting families experiencing neurodevelopmental disabilities. As a LEND fellow, Kate is excited to meet families in the community, learn from an interdisciplinary team, and develop her leadership skills to better support and advocate for individuals and families experiencing neurodevelopmental disabilities.
Abdi Hussein

Abdi Hussein

Abdi Hussein is a financial analyst with an MBA from Hamline University and a BS in Business Management from Saint Mary’s University. Abdi became active in the autism community when his son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 24 months. Abdi has a passion for helping parents within the Somali Community who have children on the autism spectrum and need help in navigating services.

Abdi worked with St. Paul Public School’s Office of Family Engagement in helping families of children with special needs. He has interpreted on the special education services provided by the school and worked with communications and outreach to Somali families with children on the autism spectrum. He became an advocate when he saw the extensive need within the community and is an active member of Somali Parents Autism Network to support families who need support.

Abdi hopes to learn and expand his knowledge through University of Minnesota’s LEND program. Abdi hopes to engage his fellow community members by learning about policies and advocacy specific to autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities through the competencies taught in the LEND program.
Alice Kraiza

Alice Kraiza

Alice is a second-year graduate student in the Public Health Administration and Policy program at the University of Minnesota. She is originally from Connecticut, and has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in neuroscience from Gettysburg College. Before starting her graduate program, Alice worked as an Autism Specialist within the Early Intervention system in central Massachusetts for three years. She is excited to be in the LEND interdisciplinary fellowship to increase her expertise in the health field through helping children with neurodevelopmental disorders and disabilities, also gaining a better systems-level perspective is something she us greatly interested in as well.
Julia Lang

Julia Lang

Julia is a second year graduate student in the Public Health Nutrition Coordinated Masters Program. She is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota and completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Julia hopes to strengthen her knowledge about the resources currently available to people with disabilities, and use her own skills in health care and nutrition to learn how to better provide effective and compassionate care. Julia has worked for many years with Vulnerable Adults in an adult foster care program, and she has an interest in the impact of nutrition and wellness on behavioral health, as well as learning how to develop wellness programs for adolescents and adults with disabilities. She is looking forward to learning more about family- and patient-centered care, and learning about how to be an overall better health advocate and resource.

In her free time, Julia enjoys being around family and friends, being outdoors, cooking new things, and playing the violin.
Emily Mentz

Emily Mentz

Emily Mentz is a first year graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology program at the University of Minnesota. She also completed her undergraduate work at the U of M, studying speech-language-hearing sciences and Spanish studies. During her undergraduate career, she worked as an access assistant at the Disability Resource Center, working alongside students with disabilities on campus. It was during this experience that she learned more about the barriers that are present to students with disabilities on campus and the importance of accessibility. Emily is also the older sister to a brother with autism spectrum disorder, and is passionate about family-centered care and intervention, especially for families in marginalized communities. During this LEND year, she is eager to find ways to integrate her personal and academic experiences with disability in a larger interdisciplinary community to expand her understanding of neurodevelopmental disabilities.

In Emily's free time she enjoys being outdoors backpacking, hiking, and canoeing, as well as good coffee and good conversation.
Elise Niedermeier

Elise Niedermeier

Elise (she/her) has a dual master’s in Social Work and Public Health from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and is a Certified ADA Coordinator through the University of Missouri and the Great Plains ADA Center. She has over ten years of experience working at the intersections of disability, gender and racial justice and is currently the ADA Coordinator and a Community Outreach and Access Coordinator for the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) where she leads the implementation of MPRB’s ADA Transition Plan and ADA Action Plan and works across departments to look at how race, gender, and ability impact the ways people interact with the Minneapolis parks. As a LEND Community Fellow, Elise is excited to learn more about NDDs while also building interdisciplinary professional and community connections that will inform the future development of MPRB programs, built space, and policy to better serve children with NDDs and their families and to support them in accessing health and wellness opportunities in the Minneapolis Parks.
Kate Onyeneho

Kate Onyeneho

Kate is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Center for Africans Now in America, Inc. (CANA-Health Care Clinic), one of the premier multicultural/multilingual health care services organizations in Minnesota since 1998. She is also the founder and president of All Star Academy (ASA), an organization which focuses on microenterprise economic education and development for individuals and families with disabilities. She earned a doctorate in Educational Administration and Special Education from the University of North Dakota, ND; and a Masters degree in the same fields from Moorhead State University, Moorhead, MN. Dr. Kate also is a licensed and experienced Director of Special Education in Minnesota, a licensed K-12 school principal, and licensed in Autism Spectrum Disorders as well. She is a Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW). Dr. Kate has a certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy; she is currently a mental health treatment director at CANA-Health Care Clinic: Center for Africans Now in America, Inc. She has many years of classroom teaching experience on Special Education both in Elementary and High Schools. She is an expert in multicultural competency training, IEP development, Special Education Laws, and Transitions in Special Education. She provides Special Education workshops and training to private, public, and charter schools and mental health agencies. Dr. Kate is an inclusive, transparent, and collaborative leader with proven commitment to work for the success of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families.

She is currently a member of the Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Kate is passionate to utilize the LEND program to develop more specific best practices knowledge and leadership skills that will enable children with neurodevelopmental disabilities to access meaningful and quality life for better outcomes in their self-determination, adjustment, productivity, inclusion, and independence (SAPII) in the community.
Sylvester Onyeneho

Sylvester Onyeneho

Sylvester currently works at the Center for Africans Now in America (CANA), Inc. as the Director of Public Health Services. Their clients bring a variety of mental health issues and children with behavioral issues and autism spectrum disorders. CANA offers healing and helps them adapt to the American Society.

Previously, Sylvester worked as the Director of Environmental Assessments and Head Microbiologist for an Environmental Engineering firm; Department Head and Principal Instructor of Food Technology at Dunwoody College of Technology; and Science Teacher at various inner-city High Schools. His versatile Science Education includes a PhD in Cereal Science /Microbiology; MS in Food Science/Microbiology; MPH in Food Safety & Biosecurity B.Sc. in Botany

By participating in the MNLEND program, he intends to become more familiar with the family-centered practice as a tool in mental health therapy. In addition, he intends to acquire solution-based tools and resources to equip immigrant and refugee parents of children with autism to address their unique needs and abilities
Munira Osman

Munira Osman

Munira Osman is a pediatric nurse care coordinator at Community-University Health Care Center. She graduated from Minnesota School of Business in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She has been working with children and their families since 2013 when she joined the nursing workforce as a new grad. Her area of focus is health promotion, disease prevention, and chronic disease management. She is passionate about serving children who have neurodevelopmental disorders. Her goal is to learn more in depth about how to provide evidence-based care to children who have diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Currently, she is a 1st year Doctor of Nursing Practice student in the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner tract.
Elizabeth Pittman

Elizabeth Pittman

Elizabeth is a second year graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology program. Prior to entering graduate school, Elizabeth worked with children who had various neurodevelopmental disorders in schools, centers, and homes. This included an elementary special education classroom with St. Paul Public schools and providing applied behavior analysis (ABA) services to children with autism in both Michigan and Minnesota. She received her bachelors degree in Human Development and Social Relations from Kalamazoo College in 2010. Elizabeth's interests relate to understanding how children with neurodevelopmental disorders learn best and how to teach communication and language skills to decrease problematic behaviors and encourage independence. During the MNLEND year, Elizabeth hopes to gain knowledge about how to help parents and caregivers handle difficult behaviors and become positive interventionists with their child.
Jack Reagan

John (Jack) Reagan

Jack is a University of Minnesota ICI staff member as well as a PCA. He is currently pursing his graduate degree in Public Health through the University of Minnesota. He graduated from the class of 2014 from the University of Saint John’s in Collegeville, receiving a degree in Political Science with a focus on Public Health. Jack has worked for a variety of organizations including: Arc GTC, NASDDDS, University of Delaware, and Hammer Residences. Through the LEND program Jack hopes to continue and expand on his research concerning: person centered care, sibling caregivers, and the family I/DD dynamic. He has a particular interest in early intervention for children with I/DD and their guardians.
Mollika Sajady

Mollika Sajady

Molly is a first year fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She completed her Pediatric Residency at the University of Minnesota with a focus on global health and child development. She attended medical school and completed a Masters of Public Health degree at Des Moines University. She also received a B.A. in Child Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2009. As a LEND fellow, Molly is interested in strengthening her advocacy skills for children with disabilities and to become familiar with services and interventions within the community that will better serve her patients in the future.
Susan Saunders

Susan Saunders

Susan Saunders is employed as an Educational Assistant for Lionsgate Academy, where she works to assist students in obtaining their individual goals regarding academics and independence. A former English teacher and librarian Susan earned a B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University and a M.L.S. from the University of North Texas. She has worked extensively with students with autism spectrum disorders, neurological impairments and emotional regulation challenges. At The Watson Institute in Pennsylvania, Susan focused on promoting literacy to all students, regardless of their disability.

As a parent of two children with special needs, Susan and her family relocated to the Minneapolis area to pursue all of the unique opportunities available for individuals with disabilities in the Twin Cities area. By participating in the LEND program, Susan hopes to develop her knowledge of neurodevelopmental disabilities, increase her awareness of the multi-disciplinary scope of treatment and connect with and learn from all of the professionals involved. Her areas of interest include responsible information management of disability resources and transition related programming.
Hannah Sterling

Hannah Sterling

Hannah is a second year graduate student in the Master of Occupational Therapy program at the University of Minnesota. She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Zoology, as well as earned a certificate in Environmental Sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014. Hannah has experience working with children and adolescents with a variety of neurodevelopmental disabilities as a summer camp counselor, CNA, and behavior therapist. The majority of her work is as a school-based behavior therapist where she utilized applied behavioral analysis strategies with children diagnosed with ASD.

Throughout her LEND year, Hannah hopes to gain insight into effective practice and communication with families and children touched by neurodevelopmental disorders. Hannah is interested in strategies to overcome the unique barriers and health disparities faced by immigrant families and children. She hopes to increase her knowledge of available resources for families, and further develop skills in advocacy and cultural competency.
Derjaun Strons

Derjaun Strons

Derjaun will begin his final year of study in pursuit of a Masters degree in Social Work at the University of Minnesota. He received his BA in sociology at IUPUI in Indiana. In between receiving his BA and now pursuing his Masters, he has worked with youth in the school setting as an assistant educator well as in a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault agency as a youth counselor. During this time he has worked with youth and families who were impacted primarily by mental illness. What he hopes to get from the LEND program this year is to build his knowledge and skills on how to help support children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders and their families. He hopes to receive the training needed to help support our youth, so that they are able to live healthy and successful lives.
Mariana Walther

Mariana Walther

Mariana was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico, where she studied Graphic Design before moving to Minnesota in 2013 with her two lovely daughters MJ and Lucia.

Since she moved to Minnesota, she has volunteered and worked in education as a Special Education Paraprofessional, worked as an office manager at a start-up public charter school serving mostly people of East African heritage, and now works at Minneapolis Public Schools in Early Childhood Screening, where she currently works with Hispanic children and their families by helping them connect with resources that support them to better prepare their children to be successful at school.

Mariana is very excited about participating in the MNLEND fellowship, and hopes to learn and develop in a way that will help her better serve the community.

Ganesh Babulal-2009-2010 U of M LEND Fellow

“My fellowship in the MN LEND program has been a remarkable exploration into the research, academic and clinical realms and a rigorous study of neurodevelopmental disorders as a lifelong phenomenon. Throughout the past year, I have learned new skills and strengthen others including, becoming an inquisitive researcher. In order to provide quality treatment, one must be well versed in the research, clinical implications and has to be capable of explaining the process to the client/patient in simple language. Another lesson I learned was the import of being a patient and empathetic practitioner. Additionally, patience permits for a greater understanding of human life, especially in OT. The weekly seminars have taught me that each practitioner, researcher or academic does not exist in a vacuum as much as our discipline or place of work may dictate individualization. It is more important for each discipline to work with an open mind and understand the role of others in healthcare from policy to practice to education.”

Ganesh Babulal MOT, OTR/L, 2009-2010 U of M LEND Fellow