University Relations

Name About Me

Laurel Hirt
Director of Center for Community-Engaged Learning
Laurel joined the University of Minnesota in July 1997 as the Student Programs Coordinator for Community Involvement Programs. Laurel has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Gender and Women's Studies from Luther College and a Masters of Arts in Higher Education and Student Development from the Ohio State University. She is a recipient of the President's Award for Outstanding Service to the University and the staff recipient of the Outstanding Community Service Award. Laurel has served on several community boards and is currently one of the University representatives to the Board for the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA). She lives in North Minneapolis with her dog and enjoys gardening and various artistic pursuits.

Phone: 612-625-3344

David Holliday
Assistant Director for Domestic Off-Campus Study Programs
David Holliday joined the CCEL in Fall 2005 after working for HECUA. He currently manages the National Student Exchange (NSE) program at the U of M. In Fall 2016 David had the opportunity to take on a new role as the 50% time Vice President for the National Student Exchange (NSE). In his free time, he organizes the annual LoLa Art Crawl and is a vintage vendor at Junket: Tossed and Found. He lives in South Minneapolis with his spouse and two kids and is active with Longfellow neighborhood events.

Phone: 612-624-6385

Bruce McGuire
Front Desk
Bruce McGuire has been managing the front desk of the office and helping keep the whole operation running smoothly since 2001. A big part of his day is taken up by managing the Community-Engaged websystem for tracking volunteer hours. He loves working with all of the students, his fellow department staffers and our community partners. He is also a soccer fanatic.

Phone: 612-626-2044

Monica McKay
Assistant Director for Engaged Learning, Training and Assessment
Monica McKay joined the CCEL in September 2004. She has been at the U of M since 1997 working in a variety of community-engaged programs. She is from Minnesota but has spent time on both coasts, having a B.A. in Philosophy from Boston University and an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of California-Santa Barbara. Her main responsibilities in the CCEL include supporting academic community engagement, managing pre-service training, and coordinating program evaluation and assessment. Her community involvement focuses on Dakota language revitalization, truth telling, and decolonization. She and her husband live in Northeast Minneapolis, two houses down from the highest point in the city.

Phone: 612-624-6574

Yer Masog
Campus Outreach, Recruitment, Communications and Events Coordinator
Yer Masog rejoined the CCEL in Spring 2016. She was a student Peer Advisor from 2011-2013. Yer graduated from the College of Liberal Arts and the Community Engagement Scholars Program at the University of Minnesota and was also a recipient of the President's Student Leadership Service Award. She received her Bachelors of Arts degree in Child Psychology and Sociology. Yer worked with College Possible, New Sector Alliance, and St. Paul City School before returning to the U. She is passionate about access to education and working with young people. Her hobbies include exploring new places to eat, going on long walks in the forest, and debating whether the book is better than the movie.

Phone: 612-625-4370

Raegan Jaeger
Communications Strategist
Raegan Jaeger is working on creating CCEL's new website. Previously, she served as Off-Campus Study Program Associate for HECUA and is the Art for Social Change (ASC) HECUA Program Advisor. An ASC 2015 alumna. Raegan is a ASC 2015 alumna and a Spring 2016 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota with majors in Art and English Literature. Beyond her work at HECUA she is a practicing artist and has spent much of her time as an undergrad interning and volunteering at a number of different local nonprofits.

Basanti Miller

Community-Engaged Learning Student Programs Manager
Basanti Miller joined the CCEL family during the summer of 2018. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in May 2011 with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Mass Communications. Basanti graduated as an Honors Student, Community Engagement Scholar and was the recipient of the President's Student Leadership Award. She continued with her education in 2014, earning an Ed.M. in Arts Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to attending graduate school, Basanti worked for a variety of education and youth development-specific AmeriCorps programs in Providence, Boston, and Chicago. She currently lives in the Stevens Square neighborhood with her dog, Blu and enjoys spending time with loved ones, traveling and immersing herself in a variety of artistic practices.

Phone: 612-625-3314

Kayla Lyftogt

Community-Engaged Learning Coordinator
Kayla Lyftogt, our part-time Community-Engaged Learning Coordinator, joined the Center in the summer of 2018. She comes to CCEL after seven years at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA, where she was the Director of Community Engagement. Her main responsibilities are supporting academic community engagement and assisting with resource development projects. Kayla is currently pursuing her PhD in Higher Education at the U of M with a concentration in Multicultural College Teaching and Learning. Her community involvement focuses on college in prison programs and homelessness prevention services. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, practicing yoga, and attending local concerts.

Phone: 612-625-4370
Student Staff

Name About Me

Aileen Pham
Peer Advisor
Aileen, class of 2022, joined the CCEL as a Peer Advisor in the Fall of 2018. Aileen hopes to major in Kinesiology with a minor in ASL and Japanese. Growing up in Shakopee, Minnesota, Aileen has had the opportunity to volunteer with the Special Olympics. She has recently joined MISA on campus. In her free time she enjoys being outside, reading or studying, finding new tea/coffee bars, painting, and exploring the Twin Cities with her family. 

Isabella Rosa
Peer Advisor
 Isabella joined the CCEL staff in the Fall of 2018 as a transfer student from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She is a junior majoring in History with a minor in Communication Studies. Originally from St. Paul, Isabella loves being back home and looks forward to becoming more involved in her community again. She is looking to volunteer with kids as a tutor and is especially passionate about working with the low income population. She is thrilled to be at the CCEL and giving back to her community.

Robel Tedros
Peer Advisor
Robel is part of the class of 2021. Majoring in Psychology, he aims to become a clinical psychologist someday. He is passionate about social justice and diversity and incldusion, in particular, issues surrounding education and how this affects different communities, as well as LGBTIQ civil rights, and environmental justice. Robel takes the needs of our diverse students very seriously and sees that with our awesome diversity, great power and responsibility come into effect! In his spare time he loves to read, canoe, work out, play the piano, practice martial arts and meditation. He also loves to sing and act!

Fuechai Vang

Peer Advisor
Fuechai is a first year student in the Carlson School of Management majoring in Accounting. He joined the CCEL as a Peer Advisor in Fall 2018. Although, originally born in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Fuechai has been living in the suburbs outside of Kansas City, Missouri for the past 10 years. Coming back to Minnesota is an exciting opportunity for Fuechai to experience his much missed roots as a Hmong Minnesotan. He loves sports, learning, anime, and making friends. Some of his dreams include traveling to all 50 states and meeting BlackPink in person.

Ashley Cope
Peer Advisor
Ashley Cope, Class of 2019, joined the CCEL as a Peer Advisor working with Volunteer Advising and CESP in Fall 2016. Ashley is a transfer student from UMD. She is double majoring in Art History and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and has a passion for social justice. Ashley enjoys volunteering with arts, LGBTQ+, and youth based organizations and continues to volunteer with Cedar Cultural Center and has been working with local museums. In her free time, Ashley enjoys visiting local art museums and spending time with friends.

Suzy Pagel
Peer Advisor
Suzy, Class of 2019, is a Strategic Communications major with a minor in Sociology. She comes from a small town in southwest Minnesota where she has been raising chickens since 2001. However, she's loving the city life here at the U! Here on campus, Suzy is an officer of the Gopher Poultry Science Club and uses that outlet as a way to volunteer, advocate, and educate in addition to her role as a Peer Advisor in CCEL working as a Volunteer Advisor and with CESP. Lastly, she has lots of likes, but here are just a few: politics, agriculture, Doritos, and writing.

Jack Walsh
Peer Advisor
Jack Walsh joined the CCEL as a Peer Advisor in Fall 2017. A member of the class of 2021, Jack is double-majoring in International Business and Human Resources and Industrial Relations while minoring in Spanish. As an out-of-state student from Watertown, Wisconsin, Jack enjoys outdoor activities and hopes to travel around the world to see the Earth's natural beauty and meet new people of all cultures. In his free time he enjoys listening to all types of music, watching movies, exploring Minneapolis with friends, and playing sports. 

Eva Harrell
Peer Advisor
Eva Harrell is a freshman in the College of Liberal Arts. She is a Spanish major currently using her skills to volunteer as a translator at Common Hope, and organization based in St. Paul helping students in Guatemala.  She sees volunteering as another way to connect with the community she is now a part of. In addition to being a Peer Advisor in the Center for Community-Engaged Learning, she is an Admissions Ambassador for the U, and loves telling others about all the great things the U has to offer. As an out of state student from St. Louis, Missouri, she loves to explore the Minneapolis area with her friends in her free time. Her other hobbies include running, reading, and watching movies with her friends.

Helene Zheng
Peer Advisor
Helene Zheng is an international student from China, studying in Accounting with a Leadership minor in the Carlson School of Management, and joined CCEL as a peer advisor in Spring 2018. While She loves her life in America, she also misses her home country very much. Helene enjoys volunteering with women and business-related organizations, but she is more than happy to work with students from diverse fields with passion in community service. In her free time, Helene can be found hanging out with her friends from around the world, checking out popular restaurants in Twin Cities, and cooking!

Natasha Mara Victa
HECUA Advisor: Inequality in America
Natasha is a senior majoring in Urban Studies with a minor in Politial Science. She participated in the program Inequality in America in the Fall of 2016 and it helped her realize her interest in community-oriented development. Natasha recently got back from studying abroad in Thailand and in the future wants to work on community development projects both domestically and abroad. Currently, she is also interning at Frogtown Farm where she is helping with the educational programming and community events. In her free time you can probably find her knitting or spending time with friends.

Liza Gorman-Baer
HECUA Advisor: Art for Social Change
Liza is a senior in the Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies and Art departments. They participated in the Art for Social Change program in Spring 2017. The class completely changed their career trajectory and introduced them to the amazing art, activisim, and nonprofit work going on in Minneapolis. In the future they hope to work with one of the many fantastic arts nonprofits here or maybe even become a practicing artist. In their spare time they enjoy reading, embroidery, photography, and LARPing, or just hanging out with friends. 
Madi Ballis
HECUA Advisor: Making Media Making Change

Nick DeMaioribus

HECUA Advisor: Environmental and Sustainability
Nick is majoring in Sociology; he graduated from HECUA's Inequality in America program in the fall of 2017 - having loved every day of it - and has since wanted to do his part to help increase the autonomy of all communities in the Twin Cities aread. He would also like to galvanize others to become aware and active in protecting the spinning world we all share. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar, practicing martial arts, reading, and discussing interesting things with fun company. Oh, and he kinda likes coffee :)

Sabrina Southwick
Front Desk Assistant
Sabrina joined the CCEL in Fall 2018. A member of the Class of 2020, she is majoring in Genetics, Cell Biology, & Development and minoring in Psychology. Sabrina's direct service advocacy with The Aurora Center has been her most fulfilling experience on campus thus far. As the Vice President of the Pre-Genetic Counseling Club, Sarbina will pursue a rewarding career helping people make informed choices based on their genetic information. When she's not studying, Sabrina enjoys cooking (and eating) her favorite meals. 

Selena Garcia
Communications Assistant
Selena plans to double major in Entrepreneurship and International Business with a minor in Asian Literature and Languages. She believes that education is earned through communicating with peers and going through life experiences. Attending college and getting a degree are tools that can help her on that journey. Through her interest in art and languages, she hopes to inspire youth and older generations to learn and experience new ideas. Other interestes include: listening to podcasts, running, being outside, hanging out with friends and family, and having a good quality conversation with someone new.

Madi Ballis
Videographer, Photographer and Digital Storytelling Faciliatator
Madi Ballis, Class of 2018, is double majoring in Art and SCMC. She participated in HECUA's Making Media Making Change program (Spring 2016) held at Saint Paul's Public Access TV station SPNN and interned with SPNN's Youth department and was a videographer for AmeriCorps CTEP program. In Spring 2017, Madi participated in HECUA's Art for Social Change program and interned with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. She is excited to be working with CCEL as their videographer and digital storytelling facilitator.

Natasha Meinzen
NSE Peer Advisor
Natasha is a senior studying Computer Science with minors in German and Astrophysics. She participated in an NSE exchange at the University of Hawaii at Manoa during Fall 2017. Her passion in life is travelling and exploring new places and cultures. In her free time when she's not coding or travelling she loves to read, go for walks, do gymnastics, hang with friends and family, and support the Golden Gophers at sporting events.

Sarah Sandgren
MSW Intern
Sarah Sandgren is excited to join the CCEL as an MSW Intern for the 2018-19 academic year. She is pursuing a Master of Social Work degree at the U of M with a concentration in Community Practice: Organizing, Advocacy, and Leadership. While studying as an exchange student in Ecuador, she had her first community-engaged learning experience volunteering at a local retirement community. She holds a BA in Political Science and Spanish from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. After college, she worked in Mexico City for two years before returning home to Minnesota. Since settling in Minneapolis, she has worked with students and families in public schools and with organizations focused on educational equity and advocacy. Sarah enjoys cooking, riding her bike around town, and taking walks with her boyfriend, and their senior dog, Marley.

Katenka Bollenbeck
MSW Intern
Katenka Bollenbeck is a 2018-2019 MSW Intern at the Center for Community Engaged Learning.  She is a foundation student working towards her Master of Social Work degree with a concentration in Community Practice: Organizing, Advocacy, and Leadership.  She looks forward to the opportunity to share her passion for service and supporting student learning and involvement in community.  Katenka received her Bachelor's Degree in Feminist and Multicultural Perspectives on Knowledge Construction with a Minor in Intermedia Art from Metropolitan State University in 2002.  She is excited to be returning to the world of academia as non-traditional graduate student.  Katenka loves spending time with her SonShine, Murphy.  She also likes to hike, go kayaking and caving, and travel down south (where she and her family are from).