Meet Beth Larson ’08

Beth LarsonWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?

I am a doctoral student at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Population, Family and Reproductive Health Department. My research interests include the use of normative approaches to understand family planning use and how social norms affect people’s decision-making around family planning internationally, and with a focus on Francophone West Africa. I aim to base my work in reproductive justice, which represents the right of a person to have the autonomy to decide to have children, to not have children, and to parent children in a safe and supportive environment.

Outside of school, I work on several projects, including Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA), a large-scale international mobile phone-based survey on key sexual and reproductive health indicators. I also participate on a research project based out of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health that aims to understand how to increase womens’ voices to ensure the ethical provision of family planning care to women in Francophone West Africa.

I also play on numerous tennis and softball teams throughout the year, volunteer as an escort at Planned Parenthood, have been providing emergency food relief to people in my community since the start of COVID, and, of course, strive to be the best dog mamma possible to my dog Sasha. Read More

Meet Tom Hooven ’97

Tom Hooven and his familyWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?

I’m an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Newborn Medicine in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. I run a research laboratory that uses molecular genetics and bioinformatic techniques to better understand the interactions between bacteria, pregnant mothers, and newborn babies. The goal of this work is to develop better preventative and treatment approaches to avoid the worst complications of bacterial infections in pregnancy and early newborn life. I also serve as an attending physician in the neonatal intensive care units at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC, where our teams care for newborns and infants with complications of prematurity, congenital malformations, and other neonatal illnesses. I teach medical students, residents, neonatology fellows, and research scientists training at the University of Pittsburgh and affiliated institutions.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?

I attended college at Yale University, where I benefitted from a true liberal arts education that let me study broadly, with very few constraints. I did not enter college planning a career in medicine or science. (I thought I’d be an English major!) I think having the freedom to explore many topics allowed me to find a calling in medicine that I hadn’t expected. It was a result of realizing that I wanted a career that combined reason and science with humanitarian goals. Read More

Meet Laura McPherson ’04

Laura McPherson What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?

I am an Associate Professor of Linguistics at Dartmouth College, where my research focuses on documenting understudied languages (primarily of West Africa) and studying the relationship between language and music in “talking drum” traditions.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?

I always loved languages (as faculty at MPA could attest to!). In college at Scripps College, I discovered the field of linguistics—the scientific study of how languages work—and knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. My wonderful undergraduate advisor did research with African languages, and after a class where we spent the term working with a speaker from Uganda, I was inspired to do fieldwork of my own. I received a Fulbright and spent eleven months in Mali after graduation documenting a Dogon language called Tommo So. Throughout my PhD program at UCLA, I continued taking trips, first to Mali, and later to neighboring Burkina Faso. I was lucky enough to get the job at Dartmouth in 2014 when I finished my PhD and I’ve been there ever since! Read More

Meet Katherine Garvey ’11

Katherine Garvey on a bicycleWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?

After working in D.C. for three years in with different education-focused nonprofits, I was offered a position with Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Presidential campaign and moved back to Minnesota.  Currently, I am the Campaign Manager for Judge Pat Diamond for Ramsey County and entering my first year of graduate school at Hamline University.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?

After graduating from Montana State University, I was offered an internship with the Tanadana Foundation as the ESL teaching intern in Otavalo, Ecuador. After that ended, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work with the educational nonprofit City Year AmeriCorps. With City Year, I worked in classrooms in Southeast D.C. helping bridge the gap between what schools were built to do and what students needed from their school. Wanting to stay in D.C., I found myself as an advisor for foreign Fulbright Scholars and working with Department of State contracts at the Institute of International Education. While I enjoyed learning about the visa process and advising, I realized I missed the personal connections I got to have in the classroom. Read More

Meet Katie Ditmore Sinaikin ’97

Katie and her sonsWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?

Professionally I lead a team of global market researchers and forecasters focused in Oncology, for a Bay Area biotech/Pharma company.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college?

I attended Wellesley College and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA inspire you to dream big and do right?

I had the good fortune to spend 13 years at MPA. I was afforded the opportunity to do pretty much anything I wanted – cross country and track despite not being the fastest person out there, Nordic skiing despite having never been on skis, choir, band, Quiz Bowl, speech, and debate. At MPA the world truly was my oyster.

Is there anyone or anything you are particularly thankful for?

I owe so much to Mrs. Heinze for fostering my critical thinking skills in debate and instilling in me the confidence to speak on pretty much any topic to a large audience via speech competitions. Coach Bev Docherty taught me the value of just committing, trying, and finding joy in the act of running. And, of course, the academics prepared me for success in college and business school (and of course I know my genes from my jeans and my Kings from my kings).

Meet Jenny Portis ’16

Jenny Portis HeadshotWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?
Right now, I’m on a gap year after graduating from Carleton College in June 2020 and attending Stanford Law School in August 2021. During this time, I’ve been working for Panther Club at MPA, volunteering for the ACLU-MN, and clerking for Judge Edward T. Wahl, Fourth Judicial District.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?
Honestly, I’m still having trouble figuring out how and why everything ended up falling together so nicely for me this year. It’s probably some mix of networking (with both MPA and Carleton contacts), persistence, and a healthy dose of good luck. Being able to intern at legal advocacy organizations and firms was a big help for not just making contacts but also getting some real-world confirmation that this career path is a good fit for me. Read More

Boeder Risner Family Featured in Lake Elmo Magazine

Check out this wonderful feature on the Boeder Risner Family in the December 2020 edition of Lake Elmo Living Magazine! Adi Boeder Risner graduated from MPA in 2002, and after meeting her husband Kyle in Colorado, returned to Minnesota so that her children could attend MPA! “We wanted Luke and Levi to attend the same K-12 (now Pre-K-12) that I attended during my childhood. We chose Lake Elmo because of the unique homes, the privacy, history, and South Lake Elmo is located right between Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul and my parents’ place in Hudson,” she says.  Article by Allison Lund-Zalewski, photos by Hilda Berdie Photography. Read More

Meet Boys Basketball Coaches Rich Harris, Nate Bander, and Matt Bander

Meet Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Rich Harris

Rich Harris in front of MPA BannerWhat was your playing career like?
I played four years in high school in Oklahoma and was the starting point guard my senior year. I then played point guard at Southwestern College, an NAIA school in Winfield, Kansas, graduating in 1996.

What coaching experience do you bring to MPA?
After finishing my college career, I stayed on for one year as a student assistant. Since, I have coached a variety of different levels of basketball and many schools. Some highlights include coaching the freshman boys team at Southeast High School in Wichita, coaching JV boys and then Varsity boys at the American School of Doha in Qatar (we went undefeated in 2011), assistant coaching girls Varsity and then boys Varsity at American School in London, coaching Middle School and High School boys at the International Schools Groups in Saudi Arabia (we went 21-4 record and won the conference championship during the 2018-19 season), and coaching girls JV here at MPA. The girls at MPA taught me compassion and commitment and I will never forget that.

What is it about MPA that makes it a great place to coach?
The kids! MPA has such wonderful students who want to succeed. Also, the faculty and staff has been very supportive. Read More

Meet Simone LaBonté ’06

Simone LaBonté HeadshotSimone LaBonté ’06 is in her sixth year as the Director of Person Centered Practices at New Directions Inc. Under her leadership, New Directions Inc. partnered with local organization Woodbury Thrives to construct a community garden at a New Directions Inc. residential home in Woodbury, creating a resource for the home’s residents and the greater community.

Tell us more about your community garden project and your work with New Directions. How did the garden come to be?

I work for New Directions Inc., a small company that helps people with developmental disabilities lead fulfilling lives. People with disabilities are often isolated or segregated from their neighbors. The community garden is one of the ways New Directions is trying to change that and create connections with the local community.

Three of the men that New Directions serves and I partnered with Woodbury Thrives, a community building organization, and applied for a Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) grant through Washington County. They ultimately funded the first year of a community garden project in the pre-Covid era (spring of 2019). The garden was hosted by the three guys–it was built and planted in their yard. We invited neighbors to a community get-together by going door to door to introduce ourselves and our idea. We also hung flyers and handwritten notes on people’s doorknobs. Read More

Meet Alumni and Current Parents Victoria Simmonds ’01 and Sam Brown ’94! 

Alumna Victoria Simmonds with her 2 ChildrenOne of the greatest things about MPA approaching its 40th birthday is the number of alumni choosing MPA for their own children. Nate Bander ’09 spoke with two alums, who each brought their families to MPA in the fall of 2020, on why they chose to come home. Meet Victoria Simmonds ’01, and Sam Brown ’94!

What are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally and how did you get there? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?

Victoria Simmonds ’01: I was immersed in the world of real estate as a child. My mother was a residential broker, and my father was a commercial developer. After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a liberal arts degree, I knew pretty quickly that my future career would involve real estate in some form. Fast forward to now and I am an agent with Edina Realty. I am thankful, every day, to have found a career that I love, and I’m honored by each client who trusts me to help them navigate one of the most important transactions of their lives. The relationships that develop along the way are icing on the cake. Read More