Speakers BIOS:

Jeanne Crain

President and CEO, Bremer Financial Corporation

Jeanne Crain is president and chief executive officer of Bremer Financial Corporation, a $15 billion financial services organization with locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. As CEO since November 2016, Jeanne has combined her extensive industry knowledge with decades of leadership experience to advance the company’s strategy and performance, champion Bremer’s purpose and values, and deliver on its commitment to help communities thrive.

Before being promoted to her current role, Jeanne served as region CEO of Bremer Bank - Twin Cities and group president for Bremer Financial Corporation’s financial services business. Prior to joining Bremer in 2012, Jeanne enjoyed a 30-year career in commercial and retail banking, honing her collaborative leadership style, passion for relationship-based client service and ability to navigate a highly dynamic business environment through roles at BMO Harris Bank, M&I Bank, Marquette Capital Bank, Bank One Milwaukee and First Bank Grand Forks.

As an active volunteer and community leader, Jeanne serves on the board of the YMCA of the North, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance. She also recently co-chaired the Minnesota Task Force on Housing. Jeanne earned a master’s in business administration from Marquette University and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, where she was a 2018 recipient of the Sioux Award, the highest honor given by the Alumni Association and Foundation for achievement, service and loyalty. Jeanne has recently been recognized by American Banker as a Woman to Watch as a part of their 2020 Most Powerful Women in Finance recognition, and by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal as one of their 2019 Most Admired CEOs. She was also named a 2019 Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest Hall of Fame Laureate. Jeanne is married and has three young-adult sons.

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Dr. Lawson Fatima

Board Chairwoman of Minnesota Africans United
 

Dr. Fatima Lawson, a community member, school administrator and adjunct professor, has had a long, winding journey to education. She was born and raised in northern Nigeria, in a community where (Western) education was often discouraged, particularly for young women and girls. However, driven by her curiosity and thirst for knowledge, she first completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Ife in Nigeria, and then continued to complete another master's and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, U.S.A.

 

Today, as a Minnesota-based educator, in addition to teaching at other Twin-Cities institutions, Fatima keeps busy as a principal with the Saint Paul Public Schools. She draws on her lived experiences, bringing her international perspectives from around the world into the classroom and other educational settings, and finding ways to connect with her students, staff, and community members. She embraces the multiple experiences that co-exist within her adopted community. Apart from administration and teaching a variety of courses at the tertiary level, she finds whatever she brings to any educational space is quickly reflected on and absorbed through students who “match it with their interests, enthusiasm, and thirst for knowledge! She also devotes enormous amount of personal time and resources to contribute her own quota to improve the lives of immigrants in Minnesota and beyond.

 

When she takes off her professional mask, she enjoys reading, writing poetry, being with family and friends, eating with her fingers, traveling, and just being herself!

Basil Ajuo 

CEO, Minnesota Africans United
 

Basil Ajuo is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Minnesota Africans United.

 

Originally from the central African nation of Cameroon, Basil Ajuo has decades of experience in education, business development and nonprofit leadership management. In 2016, Basil Ajuo was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to serve the 4th largest U.S. Boards of Higher Education, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees. Basil Ajuo’s graduate degree is in public policy and advocacy through Metropolitan State University.

 

Basil Ajuo has served on many boards, including the Metropolitan Workforce Council, Center for Innovation and the Arts, and the Nellie Johnson Scholarship Foundation. A centerpiece of the MAU program has been serving Minnesota businesses that are interested in exporting and importing goods and services overseas with Africa.

 

In the course of his efforts, Basil Ajuo has organized and promoted many conferences and webinars to address key issues. Topics covered have been mining, agriculture, health care investment, educational exchanges, trade and investment in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, and other African Countries.

 

Basil Ajuo has promoted trade fairs and helped US companies understand the value of showcasing their products through these channels and advising African businesses who are interested in taking advantage of the US markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act. These efforts have led to success for African diaspora companies willing to invest in their countries of origin and for midwestern companies as they expand their market into Africa.

Klark Alomassor

Interim Chair of MAU Workforce Committee

 

Mr. Klark Alomassor is a financial representative for Foster Klima Inc. and is the Workforce and Housing Interim Committee Chair for MAU. Mr. Alomassor has 13+ years of experience in Accounting, Finance, Project Management, and Client Relations Management. He is a strategic leader known for exceptional team management skills and driving efficiency to exceed goals.

Nelima Sitati Munene

Executive Director, ACER Inc.

Nelima Sitati Munene is the Executive Director of the African Career Education and Resources, Inc. (ACER) – an issue-based policy organization working in the Twin Cities to advance equity especially within the African Immigrant community. In this role, Nelima works at the intersection of Community Development, Advocacy and advancing Community Development and Racial Equity. She leads the organization in creating strategic partnerships between the community and government sectors in Health, Education, Housing and Economic Development to improve the well-being of the community. She works to develop leaders who can transform community through civic engagement and policy advocacy.

 

She is a policy and thought leader and has served on various government commissions and committees. Nelima served on the Metropolitan Council’s Housing Policy Planning Group which created the first Housing Plan in 25 years for the 7 County metro region to address the housing challenges in the region. She is also a member of the Metropolitan Council’s Equity Advisory Committee and has served as its Chair for the past 6 years. 

 

Nelima is passionate about advancing equity and justice and through her current role, works as a bridge builder between government systems and the community to transform them to serve the community better. She has led campaigns around issues on women's rights, racial discrimination, housing inequality and economic justice. 

 

She is a community leader who serves on various boards in the community. Nelima serves on the Board of Women Venture, an organization that empowers entrepreneurial women with tools, capital, and support to lead businesses that create living wage jobs. She is the current Board Chair of the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, a coalition of over 30 community organizations and advocacy building groups working to advance equity and justice in economic development and growth in the Twin Cities. She is a member of the Minnesota chapter of RESULTS, a global advocacy group that lobbies internationally to increase funding for efforts to eliminate global poverty and invest in healthcare and education in third world nations. She is the founding Chair of Minnesota Africans United. An organization that seeks to unite Africans in Minnesota to address issues that impact the community.

 

Nelima is a graduate in Multidisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Engineering, Public Policy and Community Development from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She is an Alumni of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs – Center for the Study of Policy and Governance School’s Policy Fellow and an alumnus of the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute. 

Libby Starling

Director, Strategic Operations, Community Development and Engagement Division,

Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Libby Starling is the Director, Strategic Operations in the Community Development and Engagement Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In this work, she is responsible for disseminating the Minneapolis Fed’s analysis on community development issues advancing the economic resilience and mobility of low- to moderate-income individuals and communities across the Ninth Federal Reserve District. Prior to joining the Fed in 2019, Ms. Starling was the Deputy Director of the Community Development Division at the Metropolitan Council, the Twin Cities’ regional planning agency, where she led the creation of the region’s 2040 Housing Policy Plan. Previously, she was previously the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. A native of central Pennsylvania, Ms. Starling holds a Master’s of Planning in Public Affairs degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota

Julie Gugin

President

Minnesota Homeownership Center

Tiffany Phillips

Mortgage CRA Loan Officer

With over 20 years in banking and real estate, Tiffany prides herself on creating a great client experience. For the past 12 years, she has worked at Bremer Bank in several roles from Auditor to Product Manager, to her current and most rewarding role as a Mortgage CRA Loan Officer. Tiffany’s current role allows her to help first time and often first-generation home buyers realize the dream of homeownership. She also teaches first time home buyer classes for two non-profits in the Twin Cities. Tiffany graduated from St Paul Johnson and has a bachelor’s degree from Hamline University. She is the proud mother of college junior who studies finance and plays football at Upper Iowa University.

Larry Mahoney

Founder and Operator of Asia Direct Resource, ADR; Real Estate Buyer Specialist

As the founder and operator of Asia Direct Resource, Larry has established and staffed an ADR office in Dong Guan, Chinga, expanded product sourcing to building manufacturing and controlling operations, and turn-key supply chain solution. Larry was a member of the Olsen Group at Keller Williams where he serves as a buyer specialist. Larry is also a Director, HOA, Managing Director for Minnesota China Business Council, captain of two tennis programs, avid reader, and enthusiastic cook. Larry is currently a realtor at eXp Realty. He has his MBA from St. Thomas.

Kasey Kier

Assistant Commissioner at Minnesota Housing

Kasey Kier was appointed Assistant Commissioner at Minnesota Housing in 2014.  In this role, she leads the Single-Family Division which promotes and supports successful homeownership through homebuyer education, counseling, and outreach and provides financing for a variety of affordable lending programs for low to moderate income Minnesotans. She is responsible for the overall planning, management and oversight of the Single-Family Home Mortgage, Home Improvement, Community Development programs and production. Ms. Kier has been with Minnesota Housing since 1994. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Business Management and Management Information Systems from Augsburg College, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  She holds the Accredited Mortgage Professional (AMP) specialist designation through the Mortgage Bankers Association School of Mortgage Banking and co-leads the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance, a coalition of industry professionals actively dedicated to closing Minnesota’s homeownership gap.

Ayodeji Emmanuel Oyebola, Ed.D

Principal, Emmright LLC, Business Management & Consulting

Ayodeji Emmanuel Oyebola is the founder of Emmright Consulting, a company that provides business management and consulting services to small businesses. Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, Ayodeji holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from The Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti in Nigeria. He migrated to the United States of America and obtained a Master of Arts in Management from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and a Doctor of Education in Leadership from the same institution. He has professional experience in the healthcare and financial industries with significant experience in leadership roles.

Laurette Lawson

Subrogation Associate, Blue Cross Blue Shield

Laurette is a subrogation associate at Blue Cross Blue Shield. She has worked in the mortgage industry for 13 years before moving into the health insurance industry. Housing is a passion of hers.