Staff & Consultants

Meet the GPI Team

GPI staff and consultants are noted energy experts working on solutions at the local, state, regional, and national levels that transform our energy system to benefit the economy and environment. Staff are available to speak at events and conferences. Please scan our team bios for more information on their specific areas of work, or contact Gail Nosek, communications director, for more information via email at [email protected]
GPI Staff

Abby Finis

Senior Program Manager, Communities
Email | (612) 767-7295

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    Abby Finis joined the Great Plains Institute in 2015 and is a senior planner with the Communities Program. She works with communities in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest to implement energy and climate action plans, analyze community resiliency, and help cities become more sustainable. Abby is currently co-director of Minnesota GreenStep Cities, a statewide sustainability program that supports city quality of life goals. As a recognition of her work and leadership in the field, she was named a 2018 Midwest Energy News Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.

    Previously, Abby was a senior planner at CR Planning, a small urban planning firm that specialized in sustainability and energy. Abby began her career at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources where she implemented local government clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

    Abby received a master’s of urban and regional planning from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and a BS in political science from the University of Oregon–go Ducks!

Alissa Bemis

Meeting Planner and Administrative Associate, Electricity and Efficiency
Email | (612) 849-5244

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    Alissa joined Great Plains Institute in July 2020 as a meeting planner and administrative assistant supporting our electricity program. Before joining GPI, Alissa worked as an event producer for BeEvents, where she was responsible for planning and executing events for high profile clients throughout the Twin Cities. Her experience also includes roles focused on finance administration and marketing.

    In 2017, Minnesota Meetings + Events Magazine named Alissa the year’s up-and-coming special events planner and in 2019 she was nominated for the International Live Event Association’s Esprit award for best design and décor. Alissa holds a BA in business administration and accounting from Augsburg University.

Brad Crabtree

Vice President, Carbon Management
Email | (701) 647-2041

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    Brad Crabtree joined the Great Plains Institute in 2002 and is a vice president responsible for managing its carbon management program. He co-directs the national Carbon Capture Coalition, a partnership of energy, industrial and technology companies, labor unions, and environmental, energy and agricultural organizations that led efforts to secure passage of landmark legislation in Congress to reform the 45Q tax credit for the capture, beneficial use, and storage of CO2 from power plants and industrial facilities. Brad also coordinates a 15-state work group originally convened in 2015 by then-Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming and Governor Steve Bullock of Montana to foster deployment of carbon capture and CO2 pipeline infrastructure.

    Brad previously coordinated energy policy advisory groups for the Midwestern Governors Association and facilitated the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord Advisory Group for six governors and the Manitoba premier. He also co-directed Powering the Plains, GPI’s original flagship project that developed a comprehensive, 50-year regional blueprint for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and advanced coal technologies.

    Brad serves on the National Coal Council, to which he was appointed by the US Secretary of Energy. He lives with his wife and daughter in North Dakota, where he was a statewide candidate for public service commissioner in 2010 and 2012. A graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, Brad has an MA in history from Johns Hopkins University.

Brendan Jordan

Vice President, Transportation and Fuels
Email | (612) 278-7152

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    Brendan joined the Great Plains Institute in 2004 and is a vice president. He has ten years of experience leading initiatives to promote deployment of clean energy technology. He works across subject areas, including bioenergy, low-carbon fuels, transportation, energy infrastructure, and sustainable communities. Brendan is an experienced facilitator, energy researcher, policy analyst, project manager, communicator, and advocate. He serves as lead staff for the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota, an industry-led partnership working to commercialize biobased chemical and advanced biofuel technology in Minnesota. He has served for six years in a lead facilitation role for advisory groups to the Midwestern Governors Association focused on fuels and transportation, and is currently working with MGA on alternative fuel refueling infrastructure. He is part of the GreenStep Cities team at GPI, and is working on transportation and land use best practices. He also is part of a team collaborating with Argonne National Laboratories on life cycle accounting methodology for biofuels. He works nationally and regionally on policy to support deployment of low carbon fuels and renewable chemicals. Brendan is part of GPI’s infrastructure team, and helps support the Institute’s work on transmission and the electricity grid.

    Brendan has a master of science in science, technology, and environmental policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, and an undergraduate degree in biology from Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Originally from Eau Claire, WI, Brendan lives in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters.

Brian Ross

Senior Program Director
Email | (612) 501-1531

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    Brian Ross, AICP, LEED Green Associate, joined the Great Plains Institute in 2015 and is a senior program director. Brian joined the institute after 20 years as a consultant working on sustainable development in local decision-making and implementation. He leads the institute’s work on solar energy market transformation and manages technical and policy programs to help local, regional, and state governments and institutions meet climate and renewable energy goals. Brian currently works with local and regional governments developing community standards for utilizing local solar and wind energy resources. He also manages stakeholder engagement and technical committee facilitation for the MN Solar Pathways project, a three-year initiative to model solar deployment strategies to achieve a high-level renewable energy future. He has provided expert testimony on energy regulation, including cost of service and rate design, energy efficiency and renewable development, fuel cost reconciliations, and integrated resource planning.

Caitlin Cohn

Development Associate


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    Caitlin Cohn joined the Great Plains Institute as a development associate in 2020. She supports GPI’s institutional advancement through constituent relationship mapping, environmental scanning of the philanthropic sector, and fundraising operations. Before joining GPI, Caitlin worked as a consultant, completing research projects for the Northfield Historical Society and Preservation Design Works. She also held multiple graduate assistant roles at the University of Minnesota, including positions at Student Unions & Activities and the Goldstein Museum of Design.

    Caitlin holds both a PhD and MA in design from the University of Minnesota and a BA in English from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Connie L. Volcke, CAP

Executive Assistant

Email | (612) 400-6283

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    Connie Volcke, a certified administrative professional, joined the Great Plains Institute in 2015 and is an executive assistant. Connie brings professionalism, confidentiality, creativity, and outstanding organizational skills to GPI.

    Prior to joining GPI, Connie provided administrative support to C-suite leaders in the non-profit and corporate sectors for more than 20 years. Connie was elected regional director of the International Association of Administrative Professional’s (IAAP’s) Northern Plains District in 2019, she is a 2017 graduate of the IAAP Leadership Academy, and earned IAAP certification in 2011. 

Dane McFarlane

Director of Research
Email | (612) 767-7290

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    Dane McFarlane has led research and analytical projects at GPI since 2009. Dane has worked on creating technical models for energy and climate research, and on developing new analytical techniques to aide GPI’s policy work. He helped staff the MGA Low Carbon Fuel Standard advisory group, works on developing new electric utility business models, such as the e21 Initiative, that aim to increase penetration of renewables and distributed energy resources, and recently collaborated with the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to staff and provide research for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dane is currently involved in a multi-year collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory to expand and improve the GREET lifecycle analysis model for full lifecycle analysis of fuels. He has expertise in lifecycle analysis, computer programming, economic analysis, GIS, and other research methodologies. He continues to conduct analysis for a variety of GPI projects and leads collaborations between GPI and research institutions like national laboratories, universities, and industry partners. He also has expertise in web design, publishing, and the development of compelling data visualizations. His research interests include the electric grid, renewable energy, electric vehicles, solar energy, GIS mapping, transportation fuels, ecology and lifecycle assessment.

    Dane has a Master of Science degree from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute and a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Minnesota. Previously, he has worked on research contracts for the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the University of Minnesota on energy efficiency, low carbon fuels, and other related subjects.

Deborah Karasov

Chief Operating Officer
Email| (612) 278-7159

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    Deborah Karasov  brings more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership experience to her role as the Great Plains Institute’s chief operating officer. She previously held the role of executive director at Great River Greening for more than 13 years, growing that organization’s geographic and operational outreach. 

    A champion for the environment and philanthropy, Deborah has held roles in academia, the nonprofit sector, and in federal government. She served on the Mayoral Task Force on Sustainable Development Policies in St. Paul, earned the Theodore D. Horowitz Citizen Participation Award from the City of Minneapolis’ Committee on the Environment, and earned a spot at the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute

    Deborah earned her doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota, master’s from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, and her BA from Macalester College 

Diana McKeown

Metro CERT Director
Email | (612) 278-7158

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    Diana McKeown joined the Great Plains Institute in July 2013 and is the Metro CERT (Clean Energy Resource Team) director. Diana has led the metro region of CERTs since October 2007, during which time she has coordinated and participated in a number of clean energy initiatives, including Apple Valley’s Better Energy Program; Neighborhood Energy Service; and an energy makeover of the Lao Family Community Center in partnership with Xcel Energy. Diana has also collaborated on the launch of a number of projects/programs including Minnesota GreenStep Cities, and most recently Cities Charging Ahead! a peer learning cohort of 28 cities statewide acting together to become electric vehicle ready.  Prior to joining the CERTs team, Diana worked for over 14 years at Clean Water Action and has extensive experience building strategic campaigns and coalitions. Diana has a state certificate in residential energy auditing from Dunwoody Institute, has been trained in community-based social marketing (CBSM), and is a graduate of the 2014 Energy Execs Leadership Institute at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Diana holds a BS in Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota.

Doug Scott

Vice President, Electricity and Efficiency
Email | (815) 315-2115

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    Doug Scott joined the Great Plains Institute in early 2015 and is vice president of electricity and efficiency. Doug focuses on GPI projects related to his work as a former state official, including the Midcontinent Power Sector Collaborative, state energy and environmental regulator groups, the Carbon Capture Coalition and State CO2 Work Group, and utility business model/grid modernization, including the e21 Initiative.

    Doug was appointed chair of the Illinois Commerce Commission in March 2011 by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. During his tenure with the Commission, he served as a member of the Energy, Resources, and Environment Committee for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and on the Task Force on Environmental Regulation.

    Doug also previously served as director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency from 2005 to 2011. During those years, he chaired the Illinois Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Committee and represented Illinois in the development of the Midwestern Governors’ Association’s energy and climate accords. Doug was a member of the Air Committee for the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and the US EPA Environmental Financial Advisory Board. He was also elected and served as mayor of Rockford, IL from 2001 to 2005, after serving as a state representative in the Illinois General Assembly between 1995 and 2001.

    A native of Rockford, Doug received his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Tulsa in 1982 and a juris doctorate with honors from Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI in 1985.

Elizabeth Abramson

Research Analyst
Email | 612-400-6290

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    Elizabeth Abramson joined the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in 2019. Elizabeth provides analysis and design support for projects across GPI’s programs. She brings experience in geospatial analysis, data analytics, and information design to efforts including carbon capture and storage modeling, transportation electrification, and development of the bioeconomy 

    Before joining GPI, Elizabeth worked at the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities, where she assisted with mapping climate vulnerability in the Twin Cities metro area. Elizabeth earned her BA in geography from Macalester College. 

Gail Nosek

Communications Director
Email | (612) 400-6289

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    Gail Nosek joined the Great Plains Institute in 2018 and is communications director. Prior to GPI, Gail was communications director at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN where she led a team responsible for communications and content marketing efforts for diverse audiences across the website, social media, traditional media, internal newsletter; and public, government, and community relations efforts.

    Prior to coming to Hamline, Gail was a journalist for local FOX and CBS affiliates in Minnesota and Illinois, and a reporter and anchor for Minnesota News Network. She earned her master’s degree in writing from Hamline University, her bachelor of arts from the University of Minnesota, Morris, and was a Fellow through the Center for Policy Design.

Hannah Haas

Meeting & Event Coordinator, Transportation and Fuels

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    Hannah Haas joined the Great Plains Institute in 2020 as part of the Transportation and Fuels team. She coordinates meetings for projects such as Drive Electric Minnesota, the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota, Midcontinent Transportation Electrification Collaborative, Clean Fuels Policy Initiative, and others. Previously, Hannah worked for an arts organization planning and coordinating conferences, in addition to member support. She served as a Peace Corp volunteer in Mozambique where she helped raise awareness of health-related issues, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria. Hannah graduated from the College of Saint Benedict with a BA in Environmental Studies.

Huong Nguyen

Director of Finance and Administration
Email | 612-278-7157

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    Huong Nguyen joined the Great Plains Institute in 2019 as the director of finance and administration. She most recently worked in a similar position at Great River Greening (GRG), an environmental conservation nonprofit working throughout Minnesota. At GRG, she was primarily responsible for leadership of teams in finance and administration, grant management and office operations. Prior to GRG, Huong worked in a variety of nonprofit areas including a role as finance and administration manager for COMPAS, an arts education nonprofit where she was responsible for day-to-day accounting functions, human resources, IT management, office operations, and volunteer management.  

    Huong has a law degree from Hamline University, an MBA from St. Thomas University, and a bachelor of science from Marquette University. 

Jenna Greene

Program Coordinator, Communities 
Email | (612) 767-7294

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    Jenna Greene joined the Great Plains Institute in 2018 and is a program assistant for the Communities Program. Prior to joining GPI, she worked in community engagement at the University of Nebraska Omaha Service Learning Academy and in the Sustainability Office and Environmental Studies Department at Carleton College working on community outreach and renewable energy research. She has also supported programs related to environmental justice, gender equality, and health in both Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Washington, DC. While in college, she studied household adoption of sustainable energy practices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, igniting her interest in local-level renewable energy.

Jennifer Christensen

Managing Editor & Senior Writer
Email | (612) 278-7153

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    Jennifer Christensen joined the Great Plains Institute in 2007 and is managing editor and senior writer, working primarily on communications. Jennifer provides editorial direction and guidance on GPI communications and develops original, engaging content to increase GPI’s impact. She also manages the organization’s social media accounts and publishes GPI’s monthly “Better Energy News.”

    Jennifer has managed several projects and developed communications, publications, and other resources for GPI-led stakeholder initiatives at the state, regional, and national level. This includes the development of several publications with stakeholders such as the Carbon Capture Coalition, the e21 Initiative, and Midwestern Governors Association, that address statutory and regulatory policy for deploying energy technologies and infrastructure.

    Prior to joining GPI, Jennifer worked for Xcel Energy in their Data Integrity and Mapping Department. Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Hawaii at Hilo with BA degrees in political science and geography.

Jess Jellings

Communications & Event Specialist
Email | (612) 400-6285

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    Jess Jellings joined the Great Plains Institute in March 2016 and is an event planner. With a background in event planning, hospitality, and office management, Jess works to increase the visibility and efficiency of GPI through creative events. Previously, Jess worked for the Minnesota Twins and as operations coordinator for Pizza Lucé.

Jessi Wyatt

Energy Planner & Analyst
Email | (612) 400-6292

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    Jessi Wyatt joined the Great Plains Institute in 2017. In her role as Energy Planner and Analyst, Jessi adds planning, technical and analytical support to a variety of projects and programs with a focus on local energy and climate action planning and geospatial analysis. She also assists with carbon capture and storage modeling, bioeconomy analytics, and transportation and fuels, as well as strategic mapping for policy initiatives, including transportation electrification.

    Before joining GPI, Jessi worked at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs as a GIS analyst. Prior to that, she cultivated experience in land use and comprehensive planning for Dakota County, Minnesota, as well as through work as a conservation and GIS assistant for the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District. She completed a master of urban and regional planning with a minor in GIS from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and a BS in environmental sciences, policy, and management from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota.

Jessie Stolark

Public Policy and Member Relations Manager
Email | (703) 945-0208

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    Jessie Stolark joined the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in 2019 as a public policy and member relations manager. Jessie supports the Carbon Capture Coalition which is convened by GPI and brings together 70-plus members from industry, labor, and NGOs to advance carbon capture policies and commercial deployment. 

     Based in Washington, DC, Jessie works on the Coalition’s growing and successful national policy and legislative work. She is responsible for policy research, member outreach, policymaker and constituency engagement, and related communications. 

     Jessie comes to GPI from Third Way where she was a policy advisor managing the Climate and Energy Program’s carbon capture and industrial decarbonization portfolio. In that role, she provided advice and counsel on carbon capture policy and served as that organization’s principal liaison to the Carbon Capture Coalition. Previously, Jessie served as a policy associate at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute 

     She holds a master’s degree in Applied Geosciences from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Environmental Science from Bryn Mawr College. 

Jill Rook

Program Manager, Carbon Management
Email | (612) 767-7297

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    Jill Rook joined the Great Plains Institute in 2017 and is a program assistant for the Carbon Management Program. Jill earned her bachelor of science in biology from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. After completing her degree, she wanted to further her knowledge in creating sustainable solutions for environmental issues. This led her to achieve a master of science degree in science technology and environmental policy from University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Jill’s past experience includes multiple graduate research assistantships related to technology innovation and sustainable cities along with her position as an administrative and outreach coordination intern with Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

Kate Sullivan

Program Associate, Carbon Management and Electricity
Email | (612) 400-6296

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    Kate Sullivan joined the Great Plains Institute in 2019 as a program assistant for the Carbon Management Program. She provides support to initiatives such as the Carbon Capture Coalition, State Work Groups, and collaborative projects like the Midcontinent Power Sector Collaborative. Before joining GPI, Kate worked as an energy counselor in the Center for Energy and Environment’s residential department. While there, she worked with homeowners to meet their energy needs and provide resources and recommendations for efficiency upgrades.  

    Kate earned her BA in biology from St. Olaf college with an emphasis in environmental studies in 2018. During her time at St. Olaf she completed multiple research projects relating to environmental policy and sustainable development. She also studied abroad in Italy where she researched sustainable agriculture policies and practices and then compared the European Union guidelines with the United States. 

Katelyn Bocklund

Program Manager, Transportation and Fuels
Email | (612) 400-6287

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    Katelyn Bocklund joined the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in 2017 and serves as program manager for the Transportation and Fuels Programs, working with many exciting initiatives including Drive Electric Minnesota and the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota. Her past experience includes working as a coordinator and communications for Youth Energy Summit, marketing coordinator for the Ney Nature Center, and Minnesota GreenCorps member during the 2013-14 year for the Recycling Association of Minnesota. Katelyn has a master of science in environmental studies from Bemidji State University and a bachelor of science in political science from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Kevin Shearen

Finance & Operations Coordinator

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    Kevin Shearen joined GPI in September 2017 as an administrative assistant to support the organization’s finance, technology, and development efforts. Kevin provides support across the enterprise including developing systems to accurately track, manage, and report data. Prior to GPI, Kevin worked for the Roseville Area School District as a paraprofessional where he evaluated and reported on student progress and assisted in implementing curriculum for students with special needs. Kevin graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a bachelor of science in applied economics.

Klara Droessler

Grants and Contracts Coordinator
Email | (651) 245-3370

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    Klara joined Great Plains Institute in January 2014 and is a grants and contracts associate. She has a variety of skills including executive/administrative support, office management, business startup systems administration, and data management, as well as technical skills such as computer network administration, desktop support, and office equipment maintenance. She thrives on variety and enjoys a good challenge.

    Klara’s Wisconsin farming origins cultivated in her a strong passion for the land and environmental issues. She studied in Europe and has traveled extensively—great introductions to a world of alternative energy and transportation options. She’s happy to use her talents in an organization that is addressing meaningful issues and making an impact toward a better future.

Kristoffer Acuña

Program Associate, Communities 
Email | (612) 400-6291

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    Kristoffer Acuña joined the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in 2018 and is a program assistant with the Communities Program, working primarily with the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (Metro CERT). In this role, Kris works on the Cities Charging Ahead! project, aimed at helping MN cities understand and become what it means to be electric vehicle ready. Kris conducted research at GPI as part of the REAMP City Action Team, a coalition of groups from five midwestern states examining what cities are doing to address climate change. He also assists with additional projects for GPI’s work as part of the Metro CERT and other projects that are part of our Communities Program. Always having a love for the natural world, Kris graduated from Yale University with a bachelor of science in astrophysics.

Lauren Schultz

Program Associate, Carbon Management 
Email |  612-400-6296

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    Lauren Schultz joined the Great Plains Institute as a program assistant supporting the Carbon Management program. Prior to joining GPI, Lauren served as a coastal resource management volunteer with the US Peace Corps in the Philippines where she worked at the municipal level to conduct projects around solid waste management and development 

    She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science, policy, and management and minors in both leadership and communication studies. While pursuing her undergraduate degree, she worked as a communications intern with the Institute on the Environment’s Sustainability Education program to strengthen outreach and communication initiatives at the university and beyond

Lola Schoenrich

Vice President, Communities
Email | (612) 278-7154

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    Lola Schoenrich leads the Institute’s work on sustainable communities and energy efficiency, providing strategic direction, overall program management, fundraising, and facilitation. Lola has over 35 years of experience in energy policy and community energy initiatives. She has extensive background in bringing diverse groups of people together to craft energy policy and implement projects in networks, coalitions, and working teams. For example, she was one of the founders of the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) and of GreenStep Cities. She spent nine years on the RE-AMP Steering Committee as the Working Group leader of the Energy Efficiency Working Group, and is one of the founders of the National Network of Statewide-Local Sustainability Organizations (N2S2O). Previous to joining the Great Plains Institute, she was the Energy Program Director at the Minnesota Project, where she led the energy policy and coalition work. In the course of her 20 years at the Minnesota Project, Lola also worked on numerous other projects, including community sustainability, waste management, recycling, household hazardous waste management and waste reduction. Previous to her work with the Minnesota Project, she was the Executive Director of the Self-Reliance Center (now the Sustainable Resources Center) running community-based energy efficiency and conservation programs in Minneapolis neighborhoods. Lola has a BA in biology from Hampshire College.

Maggie Kristian

Electricity Policy Analyst

Email | (612) 767-8280

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    Maggie joined the Great Plains Institute in 2019 as an electricity policy analyst with a focus on wholesale electricity markets. She supports GPI’s participation in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) stakeholder process and contributes to the development and execution of the electricity team’s research agenda. Before joining GPI, Maggie worked as a management analyst for the Buildings and Sustainability program at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Her experience also includes researching climate policy in New South Wales, Australia, operating a sustainable biomass fuel distribution start up in Kampala, Uganda, and designing standard operating procedures for sustainable waste management for the Minnesota Department of Corrections.  

    Maggie holds a BS in applied economics and a BS in environmental science, policy, and management from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources (CFANS). 

Mariem Zaghdoudi

Program Assistant, Transportation and Fuels

Email | 612-278-7150

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    Mariem Zaghdoudi first joined the Great Plains Institute (GPI) in June of 2018 as an intern and as a full-time program associate in July of 2020. Mariem provides research and writing support to the Transportation and Fuels team in the area of biofuels and bioeconomy. She has worked on a variety of topics, including Anaerobic Digestion, Forest products, and Clean Fuels Policy. Before joining GPI, Mariem worked at the Singapore General Hospital’s Heart Center as a research assistant and at the Minnesota Youth Collective as a campus organizer. Mariem earned her BA in Biology and Political Science from St. Olaf College.

Matt Prorok

Senior Policy Manager

Email | (612) 400-6282

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    Matt Prorok joined the Great Plains Institute in November 2015 and is a senior policy manager. His work focuses on the development of electric transmission infrastructure and market mechanisms to enhance the development of low-carbon energy technologies in the Midcontinent region. In addition, Matt contributes to GPI’s research and analysis work and is a facilitator for the Midwestern Governors Association’s Grid Security & Modernization initiative. As part of his work at GPI, he also served on the steering and policy committees of the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance.

    Matt has a background in engineering and sustainability. He obtained his BS in mechanical engineering from Penn State with a minor in earth systems and an MS in science, technology, and environmental policy from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. His work at the University of Minnesota focused on assessment of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to electric vehicle charging in Minnesota based on policy incentives intended to direct charging to specific hours of the day.

Milkeessaa Waltajjii

Finance and Grant Contract Administration Accountant
Email | (612) 767-7298

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    Milkeessaa joined the Great Plains Institute in 2017 and is the finance and grant contract administration accountant. He has more than eight years of experience in the areas of accounting and finance in a nonprofit setting. Prior to GPI, Milkeessaa held a position as a grant manager and accountant; purchasing card administrator; and effort coordinator at the University of Minnesota. For much of Milkeessaa’s career, he has worked on non-sponsored and sponsored accounts including grants and contract administrations.

    While holding a position as purchasing card administrator at the University of Minnesota’s law school, Milkeessaa helped to develop and implement purchasing card policy. In his position as an accountant, Milkeessaa worked closely with the finance director for budget development and oversight. As a grant manager, he worked closely with department administrators, principal investigators, and faculties for grant and contract budget oversight and effort coordination. Since joining GPI, Milkeessaa took a three-day comprehensive training and passed the exam to earn his certification as a nonprofit accounting professional.

    Milkeessaa received his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a master’s degree in accounting from DeVry University Keller Graduate School of Management, Edina, MN.

Morgan Zehner

Director of Development
Email | (612) 767-8281

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    Morgan Zehner joined the Great Plains Institute in 2019 and is director of development. Morgan is a nonprofit executive and consultant with 15 years of experience, combining strategic management skills with a deep knowledge of philanthropic fundraising business practices.   

    Prior to GPI, Morgan was a fundraising development consultant at both the national and regional levels. As a lead consultant and strategist with Fox Advancement, Morgan led strategic fundraising initiatives totaling $30M for economic development, arts, higher education, and medical causes throughout Minnesota. Prior to his work at Fox Advancement, he was a consultant in the ground-breaking analytics practice at Bentz Whaley Flessner, where he served leading international nonprofit organizations from across the globe. Earlier in his career, he served as executive director of Dupont Circle Main Streets in Washington, DC, a community development organization serving Dupont Circle, an internationally recognized commercial district consisting of over 300 independent businesses.   

    Morgan grew up in Virginia and earned his MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and his BA from McGill University.  

Rolf Nordstrom

President & Chief Executive Officer
Email | (612) 278-7156

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    Rolf joined the Great Plains Institute in 2003 and is president and chief executive officer. He has more than 30 years of experience in energy and sustainable development policy and practice in both governmental and nonprofit settings. For much of his career, Rolf has worked to broker agreement among disparate interests on difficult public policy issues.

    Rolf was appointed by US Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in 2016 to the department’s Electricity Advisory Committee, where served for a two-year term. Rolf has written or helped craft new laws on high-performance buildings, hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, resource efficient land use, and sustainable development. He was a contributing author to the third National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive report required by Congress on climate change impacts in the US. Rolf has authored and edited many publications on energy, transportation, and sustainable development and speaks to a wide range of audiences both nationally and abroad.

    Prior to joining GPI, Rolf served for a decade with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board and Office of Strategic and Long-Range Planning. For seven of those years he served as assistant director of then Governor Arne Carlson’s Sustainable Development Initiative, working to harmonize the state’s economic and environmental policies. Rolf has also held positions with the United States Congress, World Wildlife Fund International (Brussels, Belgium), National Wildlife Federation’s Corporate Conservation Council (Washington, DC), and the Global Environment Program at New York University’s Stern School of Business

    Rolf serves on the energy strategy working group for the MN Sustainable Growth Coalition, a group of more than 30 leading companies dedicated to ushering in a “circular economy.” He also serves on the advisory committee for the Energy Systems Integration Group, an industry association that takes a total system view of current energy systems to leverage the combined and synergistic strengths across electricity, thermal, and transportation systems. Previously, Rolf served on numerous advisory boards, including the University of Minnesota’s NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise and the Midwest CleanTech Open. He is an alumnus of the Wilder Foundation’s James P. Shannon Leadership Institute and has served as president of the Izaak Walton League of America (Minnesota Division), and Union Park Community Council in St. Paul where he lives with his wife of 23 years Kathy (their two sons are in college). Rolf holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Carleton College and a master’s degree in international environmental policy from Tufts University.

Trevor Drake

Senior Program Manager, Electricity and Efficiency
Email | (612) 767-7291

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    Trevor Drake joined the Great Plains Institute in 2013 and is a program manager. His work is focused on engaging diverse groups of stakeholders to enable innovation and collaborative problem-solving around utility initiatives and state regulatory proceedings. Trevor has run stakeholder engagement processes to support new time-varying rates, utility investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, distribution system planning, demand response programs, and performance-based utility regulation.

    In prior work, Trevor staffed the energy efficiency working group for the RE-AMP network, which convened clean energy advocates and their funders to co-develop strategies for maximizing energy efficiency in the Midwest. He also worked for several years as a staff member of Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), where he helped local governments implement clean energy projects through collaborative procurement networks. Trevor received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Saint John’s University in Minnesota.

Will Dunder

Senior Digital Content & Design Specialist
Email | (612) 767-7292

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    Will Dunder joined the Great Plains Institute in 2016 and is a communications and data systems strategist. As part of the communications team, Will works with many different programs and projects to tell the GPI story across numerous platforms and media. He also works closely with development staff as GPI streamlines the flow of information from its large network of friends, partners, and colleagues.

    Will originally joined GPI as a digital communications fellow in September 2015, shortly after completing a master’s degree in strategic communications from the University of Minnesota. His thesis focused on creating communities through social media. Before joining GPI, he spent a number of years as a professional photographer and videographer working with many nonprofits and small businesses around the Twin Cities.


Franz Litz

Program Consultant

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    Franz Litz brings 20 years’ experience on energy and environmental law and policy matters in government, business, and non-governmental organizations to his work advising state officials, industry and non-profit organizations. Franz is an expert on the federal Clean Air Act. Before joining Great Plains Institute as a consultant, Franz was executive director of the Pace Energy & Climate Center, a legal and policy think tank, and a senior fellow with the climate and energy program at the World Resources Institute, a policy think tank. His government experience includes a stint as an air and energy attorney, followed by four years leading the development of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Before entering government service, Franz practiced corporate environmental and energy law in Boston. Franz currently advises the Great Plains Institute in connection with its work with the Midwestern Power Sector Collaborative, an effort by utilities, cooperatives, merchant generators, environmental groups, and state officials to develop a Midwestern approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Patrice Lahlum

Program Consultant
email | 1 (701) 281-5007

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    Patrice Lahlum is the President/Owner of Riverwind Consulting, LLC, based in West Fargo, ND, and provides clients with a wide range of consulting services including marketing, communications and policy development and analysis. Current areas of focus are agriculture, energy, natural resources, and organizational development. Lahlum currently works as a consultant to the Great Plains Institute (GPI) on their communications, transmission and biomass programs. Named as one of the region’s “40 Under 40” business leaders by Prairie Business Magazine in 2011, Lahlum has more than 15 years of experience in agriculture and energy policy, project management, public relations, fundraising, media (conventional and social) outreach, group consensus development and facilitation. Renewable energy is a significant focus of Lahlum’s work, having led the effort to organize the first ever renewable energy summit in North Dakota. That summit led to the creation of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy (NDARE). Lahlum served as the elected chair of NDARE from 2009-2012 and served on the board of directors from 2008-2012.