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Session Details - MCDA Spring Conference 2023
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Welcome to the 2023 Minnesota Careers Conference!

Session Descriptions & Speaker Bios

9:15 - 10:15 am | Room P0806 A&B

Morning Keynote Presentation - Ingredients for Finding Purpose

10:30 - 11:30 am

Morning Breakout Sessions

#1. Room P0806 A&B 

Keynote Follow-up: CliftonStrengths Assessment, Coaching and Certification        

#2. Room P0838

Intentional Indecision: A Planned Happenstance Approach to Guiding the Undecided        

#3. Room P0840

Minnesota’s Changing Labor Market        

12:30 - 1:30 pm  | Room P0806 A&B

Afternoon Keynote Presentation - Prejudice to Purpose: Barriers and Opportunities Facing LGBTQ Candidates

1:45 - 2:45 pm  | Room P0806 A&B

General Session: Panel Discussion - Young Career Development Professionals of Color: Experiences, Observations and Suggestions About Diversity in the Field of Career Development

3:00 - 4:00 pm

Afternoon Breakout Sessions        

#4. Room P0806 A&B

Learning from COVID-19: A Call to Integrate Career and Mental Health on Campus        

#5. Room P0838

WHO Logic: A Practical Valuation Tool with a Purpose        

#6. Room P0840

Putting your “Counselor Feet” into a Client’s Shoes

4:00 - 4:30 pm  | Room P0806 A&B

Awards, Refreshments, and Door Prizes        

Morning Keynote Presentation
(9:15 - 10:15 am)

Ingredients for Finding Purpose

ROOM: P0806 A&B

Ken Barr Jr., Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, Author, and Licensed Professional Counselor


Finding your purpose is another way to say, “finding your why.”  And when we deconstruct a fulfilling why, we find it is often built with the ingredients of Strengths, Hope, and Engagement.  In this session, we will explore the link between these ingredients to wellbeing and success.  Participants will learn ways to discover their Strengths, maximize workplace and personal engagement, and explore opportunities to apply their Strengths in the communities most important to them.


Ken Barr, Jr. is the author of Turning Talents into Strengths: Stories of Coaching Transformation. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor, career coach, and organizational consultant dedicated to helping individuals and teams discover, develop, and apply their strengths. He works frequently in the education, non-profit, retail, hospitality, healthcare, and customer service fields providing solutions that include program startup, team development, best practices, recognition, and talent insights.

As the former director of Student Strengths Development at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Ken was responsible for leading all facets of the creation, development, assessment, and operations of an award-winning talent development/student success program.

He also specializes in career coaching, guiding clients through the career decision-making process based on their Strengths, personality type, work values, skills, and interests. He emphasizes making informed career choices and finding ways to use natural talents every day.

Ken is also a passionate speaker and trainer who focuses on: Talent and Strengths development, engagement (campus and employee), mentoring, networking, experiential education, substance abuse prevention, risk management, and strategic planning.  He is Michigan’s first Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and has helped more than 20,000 people discover their Strengths.

Morning Breakout Sessions
10:30 - 11:30 am)

#1 - Keynote Follow-up: CliftonStrengths Assessment, Coaching and Certification 

ROOM: P0806 A&B

Ken Barr Jr., Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, Author, and Licensed Professional Counselor

Katie Christensen, CEO & Founder of Beekuba, Gallup-certified Strengths Coach


Continue the discussion on using Strengths Assessments in your coaching practice and learn about Strengths Certification. Join us for a Q&A on all things CliftonStrengths.  We are excited to share information and answer your questions on a range of topics, including:  CliftonStrengths history, Assessment Basics, Certification, Coaching, team best practices, and multimedia resources.  


Ken Barr, Jr. (See Morning Keynote for full bio)

Katie Christensen is the CEO & Founder of Beekuba, a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach, and a licensed e2grow consultant.  It is her deepest joy to help others discover and develop their natural talents into unstoppable strengths so they can work better together and live their best lives!

Katie’s Top Five CliftonStrengths: Adaptability | Context | Maximizer | Belief | Positivity

#2 - Intentional Indecision: A Planned Happenstance Approach to Guiding the Undecided

ROOM: P0838

Abby Wilfert, Michael Stebleton, Vic Massaglia, University of Minnesota


Is career indecision an asset or a deficit? This presentation will offer suggestions for career counselors to support undecided individuals — whether college students or mid-career professionals — in crafting career experiments to explore their life purpose. Combining seminal insights on planned happenstance by John Krumboltz, contemporary frameworks on identity experiments by Herminia Ibarra, and the decades of scholarship in between, this presentation offers a fresh perspective on a growing challenge in the field: responding to career indecision. We will discuss these theories and methods for application in career counseling. We will practice the methods through a group role play activity. Throughout, participants will engage in reflective free writing and interactive discourse. By the end of the session, audience members will gain an integrated understanding of planned happenstance and related theories, as well as apply techniques for addressing career indecision.


Abby Wilfert is a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. A native of the Minneapolis suburbs, she completed an M.B.A. at the University of North Dakota before returning to the Twin Cities to start a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development with an emphasis in Higher Education. She has a breadth of experience across business and higher education, which has included roles in career services, donor relations, marketing communications, finance, and entrepreneurship. She now coordinates sales role play competitions through the Center for Sales Leadership and Education. Her current research pertains to vocational and leadership development through experiential learning.

Vic Massaglia is the Director of the Career & Professional Development Center at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. He is on a mission to help the helpers by connecting with and inspiring people to make a positive impact in the world. His approach is to compassionately facilitate, coach, and teach so people will discover their gifts and become their best selves. He is deeply passionate about social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. He has a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in Human Resource Development with a focus on Career Development. Vic is now a student in the Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with an emphasis in Higher Education.

Michael J. Stebleton is a professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He earned his master’s degree in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with an emphasis on career counseling and career development. After working directly in student affairs and career advising for several years, he returned to the University of Minnesota to earn a Ph.D. in Work, Community, and Family Education. His research and teaching interests include career development, student development, student success, and persistence. His current work explores the experiences of marginalized college student populations.

#3 - Minnesota’s Changing Labor Market

ROOM: P0840

Timothy O’Neill, Labor Market Analyst, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)


Minnesota’s labor market has experienced significant change in recent years. Much of this change involves longer-term demographic shifts, as well as the more recent impacts from the COVID recession and subsequent recovery. In this presentation, audience members will discover how these trends have resulted in tight labor market conditions. More specifically, this presentation will highlight unemployment and labor force trends, hiring demand, industry employment and projections, and the challenges that both career seekers and employers face in light of changing conditions. Audience members will also learn about online resources and experts through the Department of Employment and Economic Development that can assist with informing workforce strategies.


Tim O’Neill is DEED’s regional analyst for the seven-county Twin Cities region of Minnesota. He has a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from St. Olaf College in Northfield and a master’s degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Afternoon Keynote Presentation
(12:30 - 1:30 pm)

Prejudice to Purpose: Barriers and Opportunities Facing LGBTQ Candidates

ROOM: P0806 A&B

Nick Alm, Founder and CEO of Mossier (, “Creating Workplace Equity for Everyone LGBTQ.”  


46% of LGBTQ individuals are in the closet at work and even more so in the hiring process. They face a variety of challenges in hiring including unconscious bias, a lack of information from employers about LGBTQ-inclusive policies and benefits and a gap in social and emotional support from professionals tasked with supporting their career journeys. Many LGBTQ people don't have the luxury of thinking about purpose, they are simply grateful to find an employment opportunity free of harassment and discrimination. What would it take to co-create a world where LGBTQ people aren't afraid to pursue their career dreams? How can career professionals support the LGBTQ community by applying pressure on employers who fail to make the necessary changes so that LGBTQ people are safe and affirmed? How can LGBTQ people and allies across different generations collaborate and work together effectively?



Nick Alm (they/them) is the Founder and CEO of Mossier (, “Creating Workplace Equity for Everyone LGBTQ.” Nick was born in St. Paul and grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota. While pursuing a degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Minnesota, they co-founded The Carlson School’s first undergraduate LGBTQ student organization, Compass. It was through Compass that they developed a deep passion for advancing conversations about Queer employment equity. Today, Nick is the founder and CEO of Mossier, a social enterprise with a mission of employment equity for everyone LGBTQ. Mossier helps organizations of all sizes attract Queer talent while simultaneously developing workplace cultures and practices that actively dismantle systems of homophobia, transphobia and white supremacy.

General Session: Panel Discussion
1:45 - 2:45 pm)

Young Career Development Professionals of Color: Experiences, Observations and Suggestions About Diversity in the Field of Career Development

ROOM: P0806 A&B

What do younger and diverse career professionals see and experience in the field?  What are their challenges?  What suggestions do they have? What are barriers for POC and "finding their purpose?"  

Young professional colleagues will share their experiences and insights in working in career development - a field that is currently predominantly older, white and female. How do we support all individuals entering and working in the field and make the profession more attractive to professionals of diverse backgrounds? How do we continue to improve upon career coaching and counseling individuals and groups from diverse communities and backgrounds? A great opportunity to listen, learn and share ideas with the panel and participants.



Panelist Bios:

Marcos Cruz: After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree from The Ohio State University, Marcos started his professional career in Undergraduate Admissions at his alma mater. The through line for Marcos' career has been a passion for working with students from systemically marginalized populations. He had the opportunity to support students at Miami University (OH), back at Ohio State as a Program Coordinator for Access and Diversity Initiatives, and then upon moving to Minnesota supported currently enrolled college students towards their degree goals in the College Success program for College Possible Minnesota. As an Associate Director for Career Advising at Macalester, Marcos leads the office's efforts to make career advising more accessible and equitable to students from all backgrounds. Growing up in a Puerto Rican family, Marcos was taught to draw strength from his cultural identity, and he tries to bring empathy from those moments of feeling othered into student conversations. 

When not at work, Marcos loves storytelling in all its forms and so activities like cooking (recipes are themselves stories or come with stories), reading, watching movies, or playing as a Game Master for Dungeons and Dragons are all creative outlets that he enjoys.

Saloni Saraf: I grew up in Dubai and then moved to Wisconsin for my undergrad where I double majored in Computer Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Class of 2018). I then moved to NYC to work with a Big Four Firm in their Advisory practice as a technology consulting associate and serve Fortune 500 clients and global non-profits. All that to say, my biggest passion has always been working with students as they explore their professional development. I strongly believe in the power of mentorship and would love to be able to help you navigate your own career exploration and development!

As a woman and a person of color, intersectionality of gender and race has played a major role in shaping my worldview. And by bringing this perspective as we think about better integrating D&I in our work as career development educators, I am honored and excited to be joining the MCDA panel and share my experiences as a career services professional with you. As a student affairs scholar-practitioner, I aspire to add value to the field of career development by building upon my current experiences as an Graduate Intern at U of M’s Career and Internship Services office, a graduate student studying College Counseling and Student Development through a social justice lens and past experiences which included working with minoritized student populations at University of Wisconsin Madison’s College of Engineering, St. Cloud State University’s ACCESS STEM scholars and the Society of Women Engineers. I am eager to help our MCDA foster brave spaces and help our peers leverage and expand their community cultural wealth.

Luciano Guzman is a graduate of Macalester College and a current MBA student at the University of St. Thomas. He started his journey in career development by volunteering time to friends and classmates at Macalester completing resume reviews, Linkedin overviews, and mock interviews as passion projects. After a couple years in the private sector, Luciano began working in career development with UpTurnships, a non-profit that provides meaningful internship experiences, networking events, professional development curriculum, and mentorship for underrepresented students in the business world. He then went on to work for the University of St. Thomas Alumni Engagement, Career Development, and Corporate Partnerships office as a Career Educator directly advising Business majors and working with faculty to weave career development opportunities into the classroom experience. Luciano has recently left this role and now serves as the Assistant Director of Recruitment and Admissions for Graduate Business Programs at UST. As many of the conversations surrounding the pursuit of an MBA are centered around professional development and career advancement, he is able to blend his history working in higher ed admissions and his love for career development in this role. Luciano still is active in the career development space volunteering as a career specialist for organizations supporting underrepresented populations such as UpTurnships and Wallin Education Partners.

Britney Hayes works at the University of Minnesota helping students convert their education and experiences into meaningful careers. With a background in career development and student services, Britney uses her strengths to support students through teaching, individual appointments, workshops, and experiential learning activities. As the first in her family to attend college and earn both a bachelor's and master's degree, Britney is passionate about serving first-generation college students from diverse backgrounds and intersecting identities. Britney seeks to use her personal lived experiences to help and support students, while using her role as a professional to advance issues of social justice and equity.

Moderator Bio:

Violeta Lara is an experienced professional with a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Counseling Psychology. She has a diverse background in coaching, counseling, and advising students in various capacities. She began her career in inpatient mental health, and then transitioned to career development in higher education, where she has worked directly with young adults in their career journey.

Currently, Violeta serves as the Associate Director of Career Education at the University of St. Thomas. In this role, she supports the university's "career everywhere" initiative, which aims to provide comprehensive career development opportunities to students across campus. Violeta is dedicated to helping students navigate their career paths, providing guidance, coaching, and counseling to empower them to make informed decisions and achieve their career goals.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions
3:00 - 4:00 pm)

#4 - Learning from COVID-19: A Call to Integrate Career and Mental Health on Campus

ROOM: P0806 A&B

Katie Niznik, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota


What some are calling the “Mental Health Crisis” has been sweeping the United States and today’s college students are not immune to its effects. Furthermore, thoughts about career can heighten a college student’s mental health concerns. Pressures around scoring the perfect internship, networking, and finding a “dream job” after graduation can be a trigger for anxiety and depression.

Career counselors have an obligation to be responsive to society and students’ needs, helping students find purpose in their ever-changing world. Holistic care for a student includes both concern for career as well as the current and future state of a student’s mental health. What is the relationship between career development and mental health in undergraduate college students? How can institutions of higher education holistically support college students in both their mental health and their career goals? In this session I will present the current state of mental health on college campuses, the relationship between mental health and career services, and offer possible implementations for career services supporting students with mental health concerns. At the conclusion of the presentation attendees will be invited to engage in a group discussion around other possible solutions based on their experiences as career services professionals.


Katie Niznik (she/her) is an Early Careers Recruiter turned Higher Education Professional. Currently working in the Carlson School of Management’s Career Center, she has a passion for equity in higher education and its impact on the broader society. She plans to graduate from the OLPD Higher Education Masters program this May, with her capstone paper topic focused on the impact of college student mental health on career decisions.

#5 - WHO Logic: A Practical Valuation Tool with a Purpose

ROOM: P0838

Tammison Smith, St. Cloud State University


As our clients grapple with recent tumultuous career experiences and attempts to clarify uncertain future paths, they must remain capable of articulating their value to grasp opportunity. WHO Logic offers a deceptively simple format for formulating and telling personal stories across the job search and professional school application process. However, WHO logic also has the capacity to assist clients in uncovering the deeper personal meaning and connections within experiences allowing them to appreciate a more holistic self-perception and direction when articulating their value.

This presentation will allow participants to practice designing their own valuation statements with WHO logic. The presenter will give examples of the remarkably flexible WHO Logic format from her work in a variety of areas (resumes, interviewing, research presentations, counseling notes, lunch orders!) with many resources provided.


Tammison Smith is the Associate Director of Career Development at St. Cloud State University. Her favorite role is training and supervising graduate students in the Center. Tammison received her doctorate in counselor education and supervision.

#6 - Putting your “Counselor Feet” into a Client’s Shoes

ROOM: P0840

Cynthia Favre, Gustavus Adolphus College, MCDA President-Elect

Kayla Malgren, Student, Gustavus Adolphus College


Trying something new is hard - especially when you haven’t tried something new in a long time. In this interactive session, you will be asked to put yourself in your clients’ shoes and try something new. We will take “ever changing” literally and give you a lesson in juggling!  Because of equipment limitations this session is limited to 20 participants.


Cynthia Favre is the Director of Vocation and Career Readiness Programs, Gustavus Adolphus College Center for Career Development. She has a Master of Science in Counseling and Student Personnel from Minnesota State University-Mankato and a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, Morris with a Sociology major.

Cynthia helps students to name their gifts and talents and find places to use them in the world.  Focus areas of her work include: assisting students in selecting academic majors, teaching Career Readiness (second half of fall and spring semesters) and teaching Design Your Future (January).  She is very interested in helping students to gain career related experiences while in college.

Kayla Malgren is a junior at Gustavus Adolphus College creating an individualized major in Entertainment/Coaching/Business.  She is also a world class juggler holding several world records in juggling and an experienced juggling instructor, currently with Jugheads Youth Juggling Company.

Awards, Refreshments, and Door Prizes
4:00 - 4:30 pm)

ROOM: P0806 A&B

Stick around for some delicious refreshments, networking, MCDA Awards, and the chance to win some fantastic door prizes! Prizes include books, gift cards, and a free MCDA membership!