Advisory Council

Group photo of the CST advisory council

Center for Community Partnerships Advisory Council Overview


  • 5-10 community members representing different sectors of rural communities and geographic areas. The West Central Initiative, Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, and Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission always have a seat on the council, as they are key partners for our work.
  • Four faculty members representing each of the four academic divisions.
  • 2-4 students engaged in the Center’s work in varying ways.

Terms: Members of the Advisory Council will be asked to serve annually; each year, members may choose to step down or continue their term for up to three years. At the end of three years, members will be asked to recommend another person in a similar sector/role in rural communities; when another person is not available, the board member may continue.

Ongoing Roles:

  • Provide input regarding assets, challenges, and projects in small towns in Minnesota and beyond with which the Center might engage.
  • Provide input on ways UMN Morris faculty can apply research/creative activity to small town needs. 
  • Provide input on internship/career experience needs for UMN Morris students.
  • In work groups each year, review faculty research/creative activity, community-engaged learning, and community project proposals and make decisions about which projects/partnerships to pursue.
  • In work groups, assist with aspects of event planning for events sponsored by the Center for Small Towns.
  • Review a draft of the annual report and provide input.
  • Consult on special projects each year (eg, website update; long-term budget planning; etc).

Meetings: The council meets two to four times each year, scheduled around members’ schedules. Work groups are formed annually to review fellow and project proposals; review annual community engagement award nominations; assist with event planning; and other tasks as needed. Advisory board members volunteer to serve on work groups when doing so is feasible for them. 

Advisory Board



Anne Dybsetter

Executive Director, Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership
Fun fact: My family (immediate and extended) includes 9 exchange students, who were hosted starting in 1998.


Dawn Hegland

Executive Director, Upper MN Valley Regional Development Commission
Fun Fact:  I live on a farm in Lac qui Parle County where we have turned our barn’s second story into a recreation center where we have hosted concerts, parties, and lots of informal gatherings. 


Jill Amundson

Innovation Strategist, West Central Initiative
Fun Fact:  I am an award-winning washcloth knitter.  In the early 2000s, I brought home a cash prize and a third-place ribbon from the Grant County fair, having entered a competition of three.


Denise Odello

Associate Professor of Music
Fun Fact: I don’t like lemon bars, but I love making them for other people!

Miriam Gieske

Miriam Gieske

Assistant Professor of Biology
Fun Fact: A fun fact about me is that I worked as a wildland firefighter in northern MN one spring after college.

Steve Just

Steve Just

Morris Area School Board
Fun fact: Just is a third-degree Tae Kwon Do instructor.

Bob Kopitzke

Bob Kopitzke

Stevens County District 1 Commissioner

Emmy Swedlund

Emmy Swedlund

Pastor, Faith Lutheran Church, Morris
Fun fact: I love, love, love the MN State Fair!

Ed Brands

Ed Brands

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
Fun fact: I used to be pretty fast and have hair.