Diversity Fellowship Doubles in Size, Extending to Corporate and Rural Areas

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) has selected the 2016 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows. Launched as a partnership with the Bush Foundation in 2013, the Ron  McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship prepares high-potential individuals from underrepresented communities  for careers in philanthropy. The 2016 cohort is MCF’s largest class of fellows, doubling in size from 2014, and expanding its reach geographically as well as by foundation type.

Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows are employed by MCF and placed at participating foundations for three years. This year’s Fellows will join a diverse range of private, family, corporate and community foundations including: Blandin Foundation, Bush Foundation, F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Medtronic Philanthropy, The Minneapolis Foundation, and The Saint Paul Foundation where they will start on January 11, 2016.

“To see the cohort expand this year not only in size, but also region and host site type demonstrates that foundations are excited about shifting who is leading in philanthropy,” says Alfonso Wenker, MCF’s director of program strategy and racial equity. “This is as impressive a group of leaders as you’ll find anywhere in the nation.

Meet the 2016 Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellows:

  • Violeta Hernandez Espinosa, formerly of Wells, MN, and a native of Mexico, holds a master of development practice from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Her work has focused on minority students and underserved communities through educational and development organizations. She has worked and studied in the U.S, México, China, Ecuador and the Philippines, and she hopes to infuse a global perspective into local development. As a program associate with the Blandin Foundation, Violeta will advance rural grantmaking in Minnesota while supporting the foundation’s commitment to leadership capacity building and community engagement.
  • Saroeun Earm most recently worked at Prepare + Prosper as the financial inclusion campaign manager. Before that she worked for Chemonics International, managing development projects for USAID in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s in international relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a B.A. in sociology from St. Olaf College. As a program associate with the Bush Foundation’s leadership team, Saroeun will support existing leadership programs such as the Bush Fellows in addition to helping find ways to support leadership in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota on a broader scale.   
  • Jesse Ross has worked on program development and direct community engagement, with a goal of empowering people to effectively impact their own communities. Jesse previously worked for Young Life, a global nonprofit organization, and TreeHouse, a local faith-based nonprofit. As a policy associate with The Minneapolis Foundation, Jesse will contribute toward the development of a legislative policy agenda, in support of the foundation’s leadership role in the community and advancing its equity agenda.
  • Katie Troyer served as the director of diversity and inclusion for Governor Mark Dayton. Prior she worked with adults with developmental disabilities to provide support of their personal growth and success. As employee engagement associate with Medtronic Philanthropy, Katie will support the design of a community service exchange to engage mid-career and retired employees in meaningful philanthropy.
  • Bruce Thao is founder and CEO of LIT Consulting – Lead. Inspire. Transform. Prior to his consulting work, Bruce served for five years as director of programs of a $10 million nonprofit, driving national policy work, research and capacity-building programs for nonprofit organizations across the country. He is a 2013 Bush Leadership Fellow and a 2014 White House Champion of Change. As program associate with the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, Bruce will develop and implement an initiative focused on linking networks of community leaders in the east metro while grantmaking to address a variety of human service and capacity needs to strengthen east metro communities of Dakota, Ramsey and Washington counties.
  • Takara Henegar earned a master in nonprofit management from Hamline University and has spent the past seven years working in fund development for nonprofits including Como Friends, People Serving People and Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative. Takara has also served on the board of Kulture Klub Collaborative, committees of Headwaters Foundation for Justice, and she co-hosts a web program on KFAI. As program associate with The Saint Paul Foundation, Takara will advance community investments through Community Capacity Endowment grantmaking, the Management Improvement Fund  and the Diversity Endowment Fund).
  • Chao Yang was born in a Thai Refugee camp, grew up in St. Paul’s north end, and is a first generation Hmong woman. Previously, Chao worked as a statewide healthcare trainer for the Department of Human Services, where she was at the intersection of technology, healthcare policy and instructional design. As community engagement associate with Medtronic Philanthropy, Chao will help align and execute Medtronic’s philanthropic efforts aimed at achieving health equity and eliminating health disparities by integrating philanthropic community-based programs with employee engagement and other corporate-based opportunities.
  • Lulete Mola was a Reatha Clark King Fellow and program coordinator at the Women's Foundation of Minnesota. Born in Ethiopia and raised in Minnesota, Lulete is passionate about intersectional social justice concerning the rights and leadership of women of color and #BlackLivesMatter in the U.S. Lulete is also the founder of SHE, a young women’s leadership program. As policy associate with Greater Twin Cities United Way, Lulete will play an active role on the community impact team and support grantmaking, nonprofit capacity building and policy engagement around issues of the safety net, education and jobs and training.
About the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship
The Fellowship is dedicated to the late Ron McKinley, a longtime member of the philanthropic and nonprofit communities who embodied justice and equity and worked tirelessly throughout his career to ensure that those form underrepresented communities were afforded equal access, opportunity and the resources necessary to fully participate and be heard.
About the Minnesota Council on Foundations
The Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) works actively to expand and strengthen a vibrant community of diverse grantmakers who individually and collectively advance the common good. MCF members represent three-quarters of all grantmaking in the state, awarding more than $1 billion annually. Members include private family and independent foundations, community and other public foundations, and corporate foundations and giving programs. For more information, visit www.mcf.org.


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