Sr. Sue Ernster is Chair of the People Incorporated Board. Ernster serves as the President of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in La Crosse, Wisconsin, a role she has held since November 2022. As President, Ernster oversees the community and leads the mission and vision of FSPA. Before being elected President, she served as Vice President and Treasurer of the FSPA and on other nonprofit boards. Before moving to La Crosse to serve the FSPA, she was the parish administrator in the Twin Cities for several years. Ernster has a BA in Accounting from Loras College and practiced in public accounting for several years, attaining her CPA. She has a Master’s in Pastoral Ministry from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Heidi Fisher is Vice-Chair of the People Incorporated Board. She was elected to the board in 2020. Fisher has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years with a focus on philanthropy. Fisher is currently serving as Director of Special Projects for Larson Companies. Fisher is a member of our board’s Finance and Development Committees. Having a passion for mental health and health equity, she became involved because she believes in People Incorporated’s integrated and outcome-driven work.
Fisher is an active member of St. Paul Rotary, currently serving as the Membership and Club Experience Team Chair. Fisher received her B.S. degree in Learning and Cognitive Disabilities from UW-Eau Claire in 1990. She also holds an M.A. in Nonprofit Management and a Certificate of Advanced Public Administration from Hamline University.
Trisha Stark joined the Board of Directors in 2021. She is a licensed psychologist and is active in advocacy at the state of Minnesota and national levels for quality mental health care. In addition to her doctorate in psychology, she has a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Minnesota Humphrey School and a Master’s of Jurisprudence in Health Law from the Loyola University of Chicago.
Ellen Sue Ewald is a member of the People Incorporated Board. Ewald is skilled in seeing an organization’s overall position and finding strategic ways to maximize opportunities. She is a co-owner and executive advisor at Tysvar LLC and mobileAxept. She became involved with People Incorporated because she believes that our work reduces the suffering of those living with mental illness by providing practical, integrative, and appropriate medical care, which gives hope and health to many in need. She is also committed to reducing the stigma often associated with mental illness and supports scientific research to help find better treatments and cures. As an experienced Mental Health First Aid trainer, she is committed to helping police officers, teachers, community leaders, politicians, people in service industries and non-profits, and others learn how to identify and assist people struggling with mental health issues. Her goal is to help people understand that a mental illness is like a physical illness and requires understanding and treatment.
Other Boards served to include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) Alumni Association, M.I.T. Club of Minnesota and Norway, Norway House MN, University of Minnesota Neuroscience Advisory Committee, Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, and Minnesota Federal Court Merit Selection Panel. She earned a B.A. summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota in International Relations and Scandinavian Studies and an M.S. from M.I.T. in Political Science.
Bruce Bobbitt, Ph.D., LP, joined the Board of Directors in 2022 and is currently devoting his volunteer efforts to career path professional and business mentorship for people ranging from advanced graduate students in psychology and mid-career psychology professionals to senior career business executives. Dr. Bobbitt’s career has included direct clinical service psychology positions in various settings, including community mental health, hospital pediatric psychology, and private practice. He has also held leadership positions in direct service organizations in the public and private sectors. He held various positions, all in behavioral health at Optum, UnitedHealth Group, over nearly 25 years, leaving that organization as Sr. Vice President of Quality Management, Specialty Networks, and Behavioral Health. Dr. Bobbitt was on the Board and Chair for Walk-In Counseling and the Bridge for Runaway Youth. In 2022, he left the United Hospital Foundation Board, St. Paul, after completing a three-year term. He has also been actively involved in committee work for the American Psychological Association and the Minnesota Psychological Association, where he was President in 2018. He has given numerous professional presentations on healthcare issues, published articles in peer-reviewed psychology and behavioral health journals, and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He graduated from Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, and received his Ph.D. in child psychology from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN.
Doug Elsass joined the Board of Directors in 2022 and currently serves as Shareholder at Nilan Johnson Lewis, PA, in Minneapolis. With more than 30 years of practicing law, Doug is a skilled business litigator for various industries, such as health care, financial services, retail, agriculture, and professional services industries, among others. Doug has worked extensively on shareholder and partnership disputes, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and business competition cases. This expertise is why fellow lawyers and local law firms frequently seek him to represent them in disputes. Elsass has served as President of the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and as Chair of the Civil Litigation Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association, making him sought after by various national firms for local counsel.
At Miami University, Elsass earned a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and a J.D., cum laude, at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Yuying is a product, technology, and AI strategy executive with 20+ years of experience building EdTech, FinTech, and Technology products across D2C, B2B, and SaaS segments and leading global teams. She got her start in product management at Microsoft Windows when Bill Gates still worked there and yelled at developers for their code. She specializes in AI-driven product strategy, data transformation, and international market expansion. She is currently the Head of Applied AI at PEAK6, a private investments firm, and the Chief Product Officer at Barnes and Noble Education, DSS, before that.
Yeying earned both her M.Eng. and B.S. in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering from MIT, with specializations in computer vision and visual effect models. She is a current member of Chief, a network of executive women, CEOX, a community elevating women into CEO and board roles; and VAB, a global advisory network of executives and board members from 50+ countries.
Outside of her professional life, Yuying is a mom to 3 teenagers who all believe they know technology better than her, and she’s an avid competitive ballroom dancer.
Ashley has spent over two decades working with organizations to define and elevate their brand, navigate disruption, and drive consumer engagement and loyalty. She specializes in developing and scaling programs for complex, heavily regulated industries that address multiple stakeholders. Ashley leads with empathy and continues to succeed by creating meaningful, inclusive, & actionable experiences that combine the best in digital innovation with grassroots community outreach.
As the Chief Communications & Marketing Officer for Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, Ashley led communications, engagement, marketing, and public affairs strategy. She spearheaded digital transformation across the organization and created multiple programs to improve health access, equity, and outcomes for individuals with complex needs. Ashley built an award-winning content and outreach strategy that leveraged consumer partnership and unilaterally improved engagement and customer satisfaction.
Prior to her role at Cardinal Innovations, Ashley led a global Marketing Communications team for a multi-billion-dollar specialty manufacturing company. While there, she improved share of voice and increased market share for key business segments, successfully launched multiple new products, and rolled out a five-year strategic plan to over 5,000 employees in 63 locations around the world. Ashley was also previously the Director of Marketing and Communications for Lime Energy, a national, publicly traded energy efficiency firm, where she led all brand activities and created a national customer engagement and satisfaction platform.
She has provided coaching, mentoring, and leadership development consulting through the Behavioral Healthcare Leadership Academy, Wingspan Performance, and E4 Carolinas. Ashley is a proud mama, Demon Deacon, and long-term resident of the Lake Norman area in North Carolina.
Emily Essert, Ph.D., joined the Board of Directors in 2022 and currently serves as the Director of Institutional Partnerships at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
Emily is a skilled and versatile writer, project manager, and relationship builder who enjoys fostering vibrant and inclusive communities through nonprofit development.
She received a B.A. in English Literature from McGill University in Montreal, an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in English Literature from McGill University.
Scott spent the last 18 years at Medtronic, most recently as the Senior IT Director – Quality, Clinical, Regulatory, and HR. He is an IT leader with deep experience in life sciences and medical technology. He is skilled in bridging business and technology strategies to deliver effective outcomes, developing and leading high-performing global teams to execute strategic initiatives and technology implementations, and partnering with business stakeholders to strategize, define, and execute effective implementation of IT solutions.
Scott earned a Master of Business Administration at the Carlson School of Management and a bachelor’s in economics and mathematics at St. Olaf College.
Nancy McKillips has worked in marketing and development at Metropolitan State University for 25 years and retired in 2005. Other boards she has served on are as follows: Junior League of Saint Paul, Saint Paul Rehabilitation Center, Friends of the Saint Paul Library, Voluntary Action Center, Ramsey County Historical Society, and the Rotary Club of Saint Paul. McKillips was named the Outstanding Fundraiser for the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2005. She has a BA degree in Education and an MA in Management from the University of Minnesota.
Ms. Kennedy is the president of DeafHealth, a patient advocacy division of Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc. (CSD). There, Ms. Kennedy leads a team dedicated to breaking barriers to health equity. Previously, she was CSD’s vice president of legal and compliance and the deputy general counsel and policy director at MNsure. Before arriving at MNsure, Ms. Kennedy served as an in-house attorney for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, advising on health care and privacy issues.
She received her B.A. in political science from the University of Minnesota and her J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul. Ms. Kennedy also serves as a board member of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and MNsure, representing consumers eligible for public health care program coverage.
Wendy Lewis is currently a Sr. Software Engineer II at Clinical Decisions EBSCO. Wendy has a bachelor’s in Computer Science from Wayne State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Lawrence Technological University. In the Fall of 2023, she will start her degree in Health Informatics at Morehouse School of Medicine.
For 25 years, Wendy has been devoted to digital data transformation and enterprise data structures. She has led and assisted many corporations with organizing and structuring their data for digital consumption. Her career spans automotive, education/textbooks, insurance, legal, and health.
Wendy resides in Atlanta, GA, with her three dogs and cat. She also enjoys spending time in her garden, playing tennis, and traveling.
Seth Paradis, Ph.D., was elected to the board in the fall of 2018. Dr. Paradis is also the Chair of the Human Kinetics and Applied Health Science Department and founding Director of the Biokinetics program at Bethel University. Dr. Paradis and the program’s diverse healthcare faculty have built one of the fastest-growing and top new revenues of Bethel University. The program is known for its strategic cross-department curriculum, clinical hands-on work, award-winning student research, and strategic outreach that leads to top placement rates of employment and graduate school acceptance. Paradis has extensive consulting and research experience in injury prevention and the development of neuromuscular facilitation. He is starting to examine the body’s endocrine response to daily stress, how it relates to chronic disease, and the dimensions of well-being.
Chad Saunders is a member of the People Incorporated Board. He earned an M.B.A. in Marketing and works as a client executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield. Saunders utilizes his education and experience to bring everyone quality and affordable health care.
Mari L. Payton joined Minnesota State Colleges and Universities in May 2018 as the Director of Engineering and Data, bringing her nearly 30 years of experience as a technology professional. In this role, she works with executives and professionals from Minnesota State’s 30 colleges and seven universities, focusing on strategy, development, and implementation of value-driven and secure enterprise applications and data solutions for Minnesota State. Currently, she is developing the Enterprise Data Strategy, leading the Reporting Refresh project, and developing the Business Glossary. She is a member of the Enterprise Data Governance Committee.
Mari’s affinity to data is firmly rooted in her vocation to serve others through the use of technology, improving the individual lives of others and strengthening the community overall. What gets her out of bed every morning is her belief that doing the right things with technology at the right time can not only provide value to the organizations she works for but also foster life-changing opportunities for the people those organizations serve.
Previously, she was the Systems Software and Database Director for the State of Minnesota. She managed the State’s Enterprise Resource Planning system software, which included a very successful implementation of Human Capital Management. She also chaired the Department of Human Services Information Policy Workgroup, developing and implementing agency-wide information policy and the Emerging Leadership Institute and Senior Leadership Institute Graduate Advisory Board for MN.IT Services, which provided leadership and strategy recommendations to the Commissioner of MN.IT.
Ms. Payton holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater from the College of Saint Benedict; technical certifications in Computer Programming from Brown Institute, Oracle Certified Associate from Oracle Corporation, ITIL Foundation Certified Professional from Knowledge Peak; legal certification in Cybersecurity and Information Privacy Law from Mitchell Hamline School of Law; and leadership certificates from the Emerging Leadership Institute and the Senior Leadership Institute from the State of Minnesota and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She is currently working on a Master of Science in the area of Posthumous Data Privacy through the College of Individualized Studies at Metropolitan State University. Her anticipated graduation date is December 2023.
Kyle Thomas joined the Board of Directors in 2016 and currently serves as Senior Associate General Counsel – Optum Litigation, UnitedHealth Group. Thomas received a B.A. Political Science and Government from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a Juris Doctor of Law from the University of Minnesota Law School, and an MBA, in Healthcare from the University of St. Thomas – Opus College of Business.
Sharon Williams joined the Board of Directors in 2022 and currently serves as the Senior Vice Present, Payer Relations, at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Atlanta, Georgia. Sharon has over 20 years of experience in healthcare operations and policy, including creating ACOs, and risk agreements, developing and evaluating healthcare delivery and reimbursement systems, healthcare compliance programs, healthcare reform options, and healthcare data analysis.
At Syracuse University, Williams received a Bachelor’s in Public Relations from the Newhouse School of Public Communications and a Bachelor’s in Public Affairs with a minor in Economics from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. At the University of Chicago, Williams received a Master in Public Policy (MPP) and a Master in Health Administration (multidisciplinary program). Williams completed competitive Policy Management Institutes at Carnegie Mellon and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University under a Sloan Fellowship.
Matt Winston joined the Board of Directors in 2022 and is the Senior Vice President – Business Development & Relationship Manager at Brown & Brown, generating and developing new business relationships and all aspects of program design, marketing, and administration, including coordinating ancillary services between the client and the insurance carrier. In addition, he is actively involved on a consulting basis for his clients concerning their insurance and general business needs. Matt previously served as a consultant with an accounting and business consulting firm.
Education: Bachelor of Science, St. John’s University, Certified Public Accountant (Inactive)