Board of Directors
Founder & Honorary Chair
Neal Ball founded American Refugee Committee (now Alight) back in 1978 and set the tone for what this organization would be right from the start - all about people helping people. After he had himself sponsored a Laotian refugee and his family to resettle in the U.S., Neal incorporated ARC in Chicago in December of 1978 as an organization reuniting refugee families and mobilizing everyday Americans to sponsor refugees and help them resettle and learn to live here in the U.S.
It wasn't until October of 1979 - and seeing the camps in Thailand for himself - that Neal and ARC's first Executive Director Stan Breen sent a volunteer medical team to Ban Vinai refugee camp in northern Thailand and ARC actually began its international programs... programs that now span many countries around the world ...and have touched dozens of other countries and millions of people through the years.
Paul Bennett is IDEO’s Chief Creative Officer. As a partner and one of five senior executives, Paul works with clients, partners, and colleagues to bring to market human-centric, commercially successful, and socially significant new businesses, products, services, and experiences. He is responsible for content excellence across IDEO, and is active in developing and publishing new thinking in the field of human-centered and design-led innovation.
Dr. Brenda Cassellius
Dr. Brenda Cassellius has spent three decades as an educator devoted to helping all children succeed and thrive. Throughout her career she has had many accomplishments in school systems in Minnesota and Tennessee, including redesigning programs to put students first and leading an integration and achievement agenda. She also implemented the Minneapolis Secondary Redesign and reformed school districts in Tennessee, resulting in accelerated gains, narrowed achievement gaps, and the end of corporal punishment.
Most recently as Boston Public School Superintendent she led the district through three school years impacted by the global pandemic. A respected educator throughout her profession and across partisan lines, Dr. Cassellius is best known for her unrelenting advocacy and commitment to ensuring all children are given an equitable and excellent education. Leading for equity, Dr. Cassellius passed historic admission policies at the nation’s oldest public school and raised college and career graduation requirements for all high schools, garnering the highest graduation rates on record. Dr. Cassellius also worked alongside three Mayors to invest 110 million dollars in annual ongoing funding and a 2-billion-dollar investment in capital funding. Dr. Cassellius is credited with prioritizing, listening to the community, and implementing practices and policies that systemically improve equitable student outcomes.
As Minnesota's commissioner of education from 2011- 2019 Dr. Cassellius worked to enact comprehensive education reforms that benefited every child throughout the state. Her straightforward, community-driven approach resulted in a remarkable list of accomplishments, including historic new funding for schools, the enactment of all-day kindergarten, state-funded preschool for 25,000 three- and four-year-old children, and the highest high school graduation rates on record. She is most proud of the work she did regarding equitable policies such as reforming Achievement and Integration aid, American Indian Education Aid, School Lunch Aid, Anti-bullying legislation and the development of a Transgender Toolkit.
Dr. Cassellius has been married to Jason for 23 years. She is the proud mother of three children, Christian Michel (33), Ani Grace (22), and Charles Justice (21). Outside of work, she enjoys playing amateur women’s hockey, water skiing, writing, and spending time with family and friends.
Governor Mark Dayton
Mark Dayton served as Minnesota’s 40th Governor from 2011 to 2019. Among his most significant accomplishments were: He raised personal income taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans, which helped turn chronic state budget deficits into surpluses that were used to fund all-day kindergarten statewide, greatly expand early childhood learning opportunities, and bring the federal Medicaid program to over 500,000 uninsured Minnesotans.
Mark also championed marriage equality and signed into law the right of every Minnesotan to marry the person he or she loves. He increased protections for Minnesota’s lakes and rivers from contaminating runoffs and other pollution. And he protected essential social services from drastic cuts by the Republican-controlled legislature.
Previously, Mark was elected as both State Auditor and United States Senator. He was one of just 23 Senators to vote against the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. As a Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he visited Minnesota soldiers in Iraq three times, on Korea’s DMZ twice, and in Afghanistan once. He also obtained the first federal funding for Minnesota’s “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program,” which supported returning war heroes and their families.
Before elective office, Mark taught for two years in a public school on the Lower East Side of New York City, and worked as a runway house counselor and financial administrator for a Boston social service agency.
He was born in Minneapolis in 1947 and grew up in Long Lake. He graduated from Blake School in Hopkins, where he was president of the Student Council and an All-State hockey goalie, and from Yale University, cum laude, where he played Division I hockey.
Mark is devotedly married to the former Ana Orke; they live in Minneapolis. He is the proud father of two grown sons, Eric and Andrew, and a grandfather of three wonderful grandsons. He also loves his two German shepherds, Wanamingo and Itasca.
Mondiant Nshimiyimana Dogon
Mondiant Nshimiyimana Dogon is an author, human rights activist, and refugee ambassador. He is the founder and CEO of the Mondiant Initiative, a refugee organization that invests in providing services that empower, educate, and engage refugees. The Mondiant Initiative helps refugees envision a world where they can find and fulfill their potential, achieve self-sufficiency, and contribute to the world around them.
Prior to starting the Mondiant Initiative, Mondiant worked in CSR and partnerships at Flowcode, a tech startup based in New York City. He also founded SEED OF HOPE, an organization helping refugees share their stories. To collect stories for SEED OF HOPE, Mondiant moved between Rwandan refugee camps, speaking to displaced people who had endured war and sexual violence, but still maintained their hope and resilience.
During Mondiant’s graduate research at New York University, he provided research for grants and literature reviews relevant to a new study with war children in Niger and Sierra Leonne. His book, “THOSE WE THROW AWAY ARE DIAMONDS: A Refugee’s Search for Home," received national and international recognition from major publications like the BBC, New York, Times, Time Magazine, and more.
Mondiant enjoys swimming and hiking. He is a huge soccer fan and supports Liverpool. He plays soccer every weekend at Hudson River Park in New York City.
N. Lynn Hiestand
N. Lynn Hiestand is a retired partner of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. During her almost 30-year tenure at Skadden, she helped develop the firm's Corporate Restructuring Department, transforming the practice from a litigation-based practice to one that takes a multidisciplinary, transactional-oriented approach to addressing challenges faced by distressed companies. She focused on the international aspects of restructuring, as well as advice to senior management on all facets of operating within a restructuring environment. Lynn relocated to Skadden's London office to found and lead the firm's corporate restructuring practice in Europe, specializing in troubled company M&A transactions, complex financial restructurings involving clients with global operations, and reorganization proceedings in multiple jurisdictions around the world.
Lynn retired from the firm and in 2011 moved to Iraq to serve first as Legal Programs Director and then as Iraq Country Director for Heartland Alliance International. Heartland is a human rights organization that works in several countries around the world to serve the needs of marginalized populations. It has been working in Iraq since 2004 to strengthen the rule of law and human rights protections by providing legal, mental health and other services to vulnerable Iraqis throughout the Kurdistan Region and Southern Iraq. In addition to her board service, her most important job is caring for three young grandsons and elderly mother.
Currently, Lynn is a trustee for JUSTICE, a London-based law reform and human rights charity, working to reform the UK justice system with a focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized. Lynn is a founding director and president of Common Threads Project Inc., whose mission is to help women heal from the enduring psychological effects of sexual and gender-based violence in the context of war and displacement. Common Threads Project focuses on building local capacity through training, launching scalable interventions, and promoting efficacy research.
Lynn graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Georgetown Law Center. She lives off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, and is part of Kiawah Island's Turtle Patrol, which protects loggerhead turtles. In addition to her non-profit board service, she helps care for her three grandsons and elderly mother.
Vanessa is a dynamic brand leader and marketing strategist with an established track record of creating, launching, extending and growing global brands. She is known for creating visually-led, deeply immersive and emotionally resonant integrated omnichannel brand experiences, incorporating innovative partnerships and generating multimedia content, that enriches and nurtures customer relationships and adds long term value.
Having held roles such as Chief Marketing Officer of J. Crew, Editor in Chief at lifestyle bible Martha Stewart Living, Senior Vice President at homeware mecca West Elm, and founder of recently launched creative collective community Soul Safari – Vanessa Holden’s resume doesn’t have much spare room. At J. Crew she led creative, brand, public relations, social and performance marketing teams to create integrated omnichannel brand communications and experiences across all owned, earned and paid channels. Engaged as strategic partner and functional lead on a transformation team that successfully delivered in Q2 2018 the first positive comp growth at J. Crew Group in over 15 consecutive quarters. This Sydney native made New York City her permanent home after relocating in 2004 to be the Creative Director of Real Simple magazine.
Dr. Imad Libbus
Dr. Libbus, PhD, is an R&D Fellow at LivaNova, a medical device company that develops implantable neural stimulation devices for the treatment of neurological and cardiac diseases. Dr. Libbus was previously the Senior Director of Research & Technology at Corventis, a privately-held company which develops wireless patient monitors, and which was acquired by Medtronic in 2014. Prior to that, he was a Principal Research Scientist in Boston Scientific’s cardiac rhythm management division. Dr. Libbus received his B.S.E from Duke University in 1995 and his PhD from Case Western Reserve University in 2002.
Dr. Libbus is a technical leader with expertise in the development of new cardiovascular technologies and therapies. In 2013 he was named one of Minnesota’s Top Inventors by Twin Cities Business Magazine, and is listed by Wikipedia as one of the most prolific inventors of all time, with over 250 medical device patents.
Amb. Mahboub M. Maalim
Amb. Maalim is a distinguished diplomat with 41 years of experience spanning international, regional and national levels. He served in several high-level positions and is presently Chairperson of the Council of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He is also, Executive Director of Sahan, an international pathfinders and research think-tank group, that operates across the African continent and the Middle East. He previously served in a three-year term as the Chairman of the Kenya Power and Lighting Company – one of the robust state corporations in Kenya. Amb. Maalim, has served as Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) from June 2008 to November 2019. He also served in Kenyan Government at various levels, from being District Departmental head, to a Director at the national level and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the President and Ministry of Water and Irrigation. He is a Registered Engineer with the Kenya Engineers’ Registration Board and a member of the Institute of Engineers’ of Kenya. He holds a BSc and MSc in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University, Kingsville, TX. He has been awarded Presidential honor awards of CBS, OGW (Kenya) and Hero of Independence (Djibouti).
In all the above capacities, Amb. Maalim, has been instrumental in designing disaster management programs, relief and rehabilitation implementation, Arid lands and food insecurity mapping, coordination and refugee population assistance. While at IGAD, he formulated the only regional UN CRF tool in Africa – The Nairobi Declaration for Durable Solutions for Refugees. He has strength in institutional building, resource mobilization and understands the workings of African Union Commission, as well as all the Regional Economic Commissions (RECs) across the continent. Furthermore, he has worked closely with UNHCR and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
He was born in Northern Kenya and is a family man.
Martha (Muffy) MacMillan
Muffy has served as a Director on the board of Cargill Inc. and as a Director on the Cargill Foundation, her family business. She serves on many international, national and local boards, such as; Chairman of the American Federation of Arts (New York), Chairman of Global Minnesota, and Director on the boards of Opportunity International, including chairing their $50,000,000 agriculture capital campaign and currently chairing Women and Girls Leadership Initiative, Ellis Island Honors Society (New York), Opportunity International Colombia S.A. Compañía de Financiamiento (OI Bank Colombia), The Economic Club of Minnesota, The Walker Art Center, Twin Cities Public Television, PACER Center, Alight (formerly American Refugee Committee), and Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
In 2015, Muffy was honored to receive the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. The EIMH is given to individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate, doing so while acknowledging their debt to their ethnic heritage as they uphold the ideals and spirit of America. In 2015, Muffy also received the Pioneer Award from The Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization, at the United Nations, which honors distinguished women who are leaders and innovators with inspiring accomplishments. In 2019, Muffy received the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist honor from the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
For the past 25 years, she has been a board member, donor, fundraiser, and/or volunteer for many organizations such as; Minnesota Children’s Museum, Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Blake School, Governor for Eleven Who Care, ARC and Minneapolis Institute of Art. Through her non profit work, Muffy has been privileged to spend time in over twenty five countries, including extensive time throughout Africa, India, Colombia, to mention a few. She is an active participant who enjoys being fully engaged with each organization’s mission and brings experience, leadership, energy and financial support to help reach their goals and objectives. Her passion for family and raising 5 children always remains in the forefront.
Gregory R. Page
Greg Page is retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cargill. Page joined Cargill in 1974 as a trainee assigned to the Feed Division. Over the years, he held a number of positions in the United States and Singapore. Page worked with the start-up of a poultry processing operation in Thailand, the beef and pork processing operations of Cargill’s Excel subsidiary in Wichita, Kansas, and the Financial Markets Group in Minneapolis.
Page serves as a member of the board of directors of Eaton Corporation, Deere & Company and 3M. He is non-executive Chairman of the Board of Corteva Agriscience. He is past-chair of the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, past president of the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America and continues to serve on both boards as well as the board of Alight (formerly known as the American Refugee Committee).
Page received a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of North Dakota. He was born in Bottineau, N.D.
Virginia is the Vice President of Global Purpose Communications at NIKE, Inc. In this key enterprise leadership role, she leads a communications team that elevates and advances Nike’s purpose in the company and in the world. Working across the NIKE, Inc. portfolio, Virginia drives the holistic storytelling and engagement across Nike’s sustainability, social and community impact, and diversity and inclusion efforts. This includes the publication of Nike’s annual Impact Report.
Previous roles Virginia has held at Nike include serving on the Global Sustainability Leadership team driving Engagement and Advocacy, and leading global partnerships for the Girl Effect and the Nike Foundation. Before joining Nike, Virginia owned her own consulting firm advising philanthropists and major foundations. She has experience in both the public and private sectors including roles at Bloomberg LP, the American Embassy in London, and serving in the Clinton West Wing for Legislative Affairs.
Virginia is a current board member of Alight, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization and was previously on the Chatham House North America Advisory Board and a US-UK Fulbright Commissioner.
Mary Farnham Whitney
Educated and trained in Early Childhood Education, Family Relations and Social Work, Mary first worked for the Children's Home Society of Minnesota in the then emerging area of Post-Legal Adoption. She has since done consulting work in the philanthropy sector and Interior Design. Mary participated in a broad array of public engagement activities while her husband served as the U.S. Ambassador to Norway, living in Oslo for 3 ½ years. She has been an active and engaged member of the board at numerous non-profits including the Minnesota Zoo Foundation, the Persephone Foundation, the Children's Museum of Oslo project, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and most recently Alight, formerly American Refugee Committee. The co-owner of a Gallery of Art and fine Craft, her hobbies include design, community volunteering, and her family.
Whitney Williams has worked on the front lines of domestic and global development for two decades. Her core skill is forging teams of divergent, unlikely, and powerful players to advance the common good worldwide.
She established williamsworks to serve individuals, foundations, and advocacy organizations by bringing clients’ goals into sharper focus and by guiding action to achieve those goals. Whitney’s deep experience in strategy, government relations, and grassroots advocacy inform and develop solutions that are creative, unique, and appropriate to the needs of clients.
Whitney is personally involved in developing strategies, positioning clients, and devising and delivering international and domestic learning experiences. Her in-depth understanding of the complexity of working worldwide and her knowledge of uncertain political environments ensure that clients’ grant-making and advocacy succeed.
Whitney also serves as co-founder and vice-chair of the board for the Eastern Congo Initiative, the first U.S. based advocacy and grant-making organization focused solely on working with and for the people of Eastern Congo. In this role, she oversees millions of dollars in grants to dozens of local Congolese community-based organizations, as well as a broad U.S. and international advocacy agenda to foster sound public policy for the DRC. Believing in the transformative power of storytelling to shape culture and history, Whitney founded Snowbird Stories where she helps bring historically underrepresented communities’ stories to life. Before founding williamsworks, she served in pivotal roles, on the senior staff, of Casey Family Programs and in the White House for First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Whitney is the Founder of Snowbird Fund which is a first of its kind fund giving direct financial support to Montana Native families conducting community searches for their missing loved ones. Dedication to the common good and public service runs in Whitney’s family. Her mother, Carol Williams, was the first woman elected both majority and minority leader of the Montana Senate, and her father, Pat Williams, served as Montana’s distinguished congressman for nine terms. In 2020, Whitney was a candidate for Governor in her home state of Montana.
Whitney is a graduate of the University of Montana in Political Science and Wilderness and Native American Studies. She, and her English Shepard Seamus, live in Missoula, Montana, where Whitney is an active volunteer, serves on the Board for Alight, and is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana.
Yasmin Yonis is an interfaith movement chaplain providing care to organizers, activists, and community members. A human rights advocate, Yonis has served in positions advocating for the rights of children at Children’s Defense Fund, lobbying the Obama administration on its foreign policy & advocating for global refugee and asylum rights as a Senior Associate at Human Rights Watch, serving as an organizing fellow at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, resettling refugees at the International Rescue Committee, and providing spiritual care as a Prison Re-Entry Chaplain at Osborne Association in Brooklyn.
Yonis supports groups in the creative re-imagining of how to do justice work in just ways. She serves as a consultant to organizations and foundations shifting toward more liberatory and collaborative work cultures. She provides training for groups interested in becoming system-shifting networks and facilitates communities of practice. In addition, Yonis mobilizes donor funds to the frontlines of social and economic justice movements as a member of the Emergent Fund's board and Solidaire Network's R&D Fund Committee.
Yonis has a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Christian Social Ethics from Union Theological Seminary in NYC—the home of Black Liberation Theology and Womanist Theology—and received chaplaincy training at The Jewish Theological Seminary. She has bachelor’s degrees in journalism and International Affairs from the University of Georgia where she was selected as a Truman Scholar. She is currently practicing into the words of the late Womanist Renae Gray who reminded us, “Slow down, we don’t have much time.” She deeply cares about liberatory faith, justice, and helping others reimagine and embody a world in which all life is nourished.