University Relations

Name About Me

Laurel Hirt
Director of Center for Community-Engaged Learning
Director of the 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
Assistant Director for Domestic Off-Campus Study Programs, 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

Katie Peacock
Assistant Director for Community Partnerships and Engaged Learning
Katie Peacock, Assistant Director for Community Partnerships and Engaged Learning, joined the Center for Community Engaged Learning in May 2004. She is an alumna of UMD and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She supports academic community engagement, oversees CCEL's co-curricular volunteer advising program, and teaches a section of the CESP 3901 capstone. She also serves as the primary contact for all new community partner inquiries. She has served on several community boards, currently serves on the board of In The Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater and is a proud resident of Powderhorn Park neighborhood where she lives with her husband and two children.
: 612-624-2585

Monica McKay
Assistant Director for Engaged Learning, Training and Assessment
Monica McKay, Assistant Director for Engaged Learning, Training, and Assessment, 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, Campus Outreach, Recruitment, Communications and Events Coordinator, is a 2013 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and the Community Engagement Scholars Program at the University of Minnesota. 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: 612-626-2044

Raegan Jaeger
Communications Strategist
Raegan Jaeger is a Comunications Strategist 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

Samira Ahmed
Peer Advisor
Samira Ahmed, is from Minneapolis, Minnesota and joined the CCEL as a Peer Advisor in September 2015. She is in the College of Liberal Arts, majoring in Biology, Sociology, and Environment with a minor in public health. When not studying she likes to draw, eat pizza, watch Netflix, or spend time hanging out downtown!

Rebecca Pacis
Peer Advisor
Rebecca Pacis is a Communication Studies major and Italian minor at the University of Minnesota in the College of Liberal Arts. She is a Peer Advisor for the Center for Community Engaged Learning and a Workshop Facilitator for the Community Engagement Scholars Program. She loves languages and will be graduating in the Spring of 2018 with proficiency in both Italian and ASL. In her free time, she has several hobbies including volunteering, baking, knitting, and singing karaoke with friends!

Prashasti Bhatnagar
Lead Peer Advisor
Prashasti Bhatnagar is an international student in the honors program, majoring in Sociology with minors in Public Health, Social Justice, and Neuroscience. Passionate about health policy and health disparities, she plans to get a JD/MPH after she graduates in Spring 2018 in order to fight for healthcare as a human right and get a chance to pursue her dream and work towards bringing about a change in health policy. In her free time, Prashasti loves to sing, read, write and do community work. She joined the CCEL in Fall 2014 and is a Lead Peer Advisor working primarily with the Community Engagement Scholars Program.

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!

Elise Frieder
HECUA Advisor: Inequality in America
Elise is currently a senior. Formerly a Global Studies major, she recently changed her major after current events around the globe, as well as her experience with HECUA's Inequality in America program. She has created a Bachelor if Individualized Studies with concentrations in Afro Studies, Social Justice, and Global Studies. She hopes to pursue making life more equal and more equitable for all, primarily by closing racial and economic gaps within the United States. 

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. 

Kara Hakanson
HECUA Advisor: Making Media Making Change
Kara graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Studies in Cinema and Media Culture. She participated in the Making Media Making Change program in her last semester, the spring of 2017. Before changing her major, she was a journalism student. After her sophomore year she took some time off to figure out what it was she really wanted with her education. She lived in LA for almost two years where she solidified her decision to be a film maker. She has worked in freelance as a production assistant and behind-the-scenes photographer on commercial sets. She has released a short film at Bryant-Lake Bowl and has a feature in the works. When she is not doing film or photography, she is at Vertical Endeavors in Minneapolis, climbing.

HECUA Advisor: Environmental and Sustainability

Ahmed Isaq
Front Desk Assistant

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.

Tori Helgeson
NSE Peer Advisor
Tori Helgeson is the National Student Exchange student advisor. During fall 2016, she exchanged to the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is a Special Education major and Teaching English as a Secong Language minor. In her free time, she enjoys running, volunteering, working with kids, and spending time with family and friends.

Patrick Wells
MSW Intern
 Patrick started his internship with the CCEL in Spetmeber 2017. He is a graduate intern working towards receiving his masters in community social work from the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development. He is also working closely with the Community Engagement Scholars Program this semester in advising students. In his free time he likes to go fishing, snowboarding, explore large cities, and soak up the sun.

Hae Lim Chun
Graduate Intern
Haelim Chun is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Development Education. In 2016, she was a project fellow for the MasterCard Foundation project in Tanzania. Before coming to the U.S, she worked as a research associate at Korean Education Development Education(KEDI). At KEDI, she participated in government projects that aimed to share Korea's experience of rapid economic growth and specifically researched educational cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia and Africa. 

At the CCEL she is currently exploring community organizations' experiences/perspectives working with international students. Her doctoral dissertation topic is 'global engagement of US research universities.Her research interests include university social responsibility, community engagement, global civic engagement and international development education.

Grace Peterson
Community Partner Support
Grace Peterson is a senior majoring in Sociology with minors in Spanish, Chicanx/Latinx Studies, and Racial Justice in Urban Schooling. She grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota with her mom, cat, and an intense love for musical theater. She hopes to one day be a high school guidance counselor, so that she can be a resource for students that she never got while in school. She joined the CCEL in Spring 2018 to help support students interning in organizing after an amazing experience as an intern with CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha) through the CCEL.