Karen Wills, Executive Director
Karen (she/her) is a “born and bred” Unitarian Universalist who has led MUUSJA since January 2020. She had previously volunteered as a religious education teacher, high school youth advisor, and facilitator of adult/parenting curricula, and a leader in UU faith development, social action and racial justice committees. Currently a member of both Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship in Bloomington and First Universalist in Minneapolis, Karen has attended 13 different UU congregations in Boston, Pasadena, Chicago, Iowa City, Provincetown, and for 20 years in Minnesota. Her mother (Bonnie Wills) was a UU organizer, and her fathers (Frank Wills and Arthur Pike) were gay rights activists. Her ancestors were Scots-Irish, Dutch, Welsh, and French Canadian laborers, servants, farmers, and tradespeople.
As a pediatric neuropsychologist (now in part-time independent practice), Karen advocated for children with disabilities and special health care needs. Her coolest jobs before working with MUUSJA were teaching sign language to chimpanzees, coordinating Girl Scout jamborees, training child clinical psychologists, organizing volunteers to defeat the same-sex marriage ban, planning an inter-organizational conference and state capitol rally with Minnesota grass-roots justice groups, and coordinating volunteers and field operations in successful campaigns for several Minnesota state representatives. She and her husband live in Bloomington, MN, and love to visit their adult daughter in Los Angeles, especially midwinter!
Akhrinta-Reading Project Coordinator
Amina Adan, from Apple Valley, has lived in Minnesota for about 27 years. She has a Bachelors of Science in English Teaching from Metropolitan State University, and is studying Educational Leadership at Concordia University. She speaks three languages: English, Somali and Arabic, and traveled for more than 5 years around Europe and the Middle East. She is an experienced manager who helped launch and will continue as Project Coordinator for the Akhrinta-Reading project. As time permits, Amina will assist as MUUSJA’s cultural liaison with partner projects such as Neighbors Together in Solidarity, CAIR-MN, and the ISAIAH Muslim Caucus.
Northland Regional Director
Katharine Kline (Katie), resides in Duluth, Minnesota where she is the Director of Family Ministries at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth. Growing up, she attended Unity Church-Unitarian in Saint Paul. She holds a BA and MA in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago and is interested in inter-religious ministries. Previously she directed the Morris Cafritz Center for the Arts in Washington, DC. Katie brings extensive experience in integrating the arts into justice work and congregational life. She will be the liaison for northern Minnesota programming around racial and climate justice, partnering with UUSC staff and frontline local and regional organizers.
Johnathon McClellan has served on the Human Rights Commission for Bloomington and was the vice-chair of the Human Rights Commission for the city of Richfield. He has also served on the district diversity advisory council for the Bloomington Public School district. Johnathon is a retired firefighter, with a bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University, Magna Cum Laude with a focus on Community Leadership, Management, and Pre-Law. Johnathon is currently pursuing his Juris Doctor from the University of St. Thomas Law School. Johnathan is a community activist who works closely with legislators at the capitol in St. Paul to help draft and advocate for the advancement of criminal justice reform, restorative justice, human rights, and public safety issues in the State of Minnesota. Johnathon also has worked directly with families who lost loved ones to police violence. Johnathon and his family have lived in Bloomington for over a decade. Johnathon kindly participated as a guest speaker for the Beloved Conversations racial justice education series at MN Valley UU Church in 2018. He will work with MUUSJA, and other UU and interfaith colleagues, to develop outreach and education series around restorative justice, decarceration, and policing policies, and he will assist with planning the online statewide UU Racial Justice Summit.
Nico Van Ostrand
Racial Justice Director
Nico Van Ostrand (they/them) is a non-binary, biracial Filipino currently serving as the Assistant Director of Religious Education at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, and the RE Coordinator for Birmingham Unitarian Church in Michigan. They were raised Catholic, came to Unitarian Universalism as a teenager, and have been a UU religious educator in various capacities for 8 years. Nico is a contributor to UU@Home, a website of reflections and resources for families during online worship and religious education. Additionally, they are part of the planning group for an online statewide UU Racial Justice Summit through MUUSJA.
Nico holds a BA in Social Justice and Women’s Studies from Hamline University, with a concentration on the way US imperialism in Southeast Asia impacts and encourages Asian fetishism. They are a former PreK teacher passionate about bringing social justice learning and leadership to all ages. Their Intro to Race for Kids resource, created earlier this year, is a culmination of their interest in education, racial justice, and empowering parents as children’s primary educators. Nico helps create community political education webinars and facilitated conversation spaces through Filipinx for Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice MN (FIRM) as part of their racial justice team. Nico also practices tai chi and identifies moving meditation, plus their two cats, as the primary factor in keeping their social justice work sustainable.
Communications and #UUtheVOTE Director
for Minnesota, North & South Dakota
Allison Wyeth, from Minneapolis via Santa Barabara, California, is Director of Religious Education for the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis. Holding a Master’s degree in education, Allison has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors and brings extensive experience in volunteer coordination and training, business management, and communications, as well as youth engagement. In 2020, Allison will focus on organizing, training and managing volunteers for the #UUtheVOTE and UU Complete Census efforts across Minnesota, North & South Dakota, in collaboration with the UUA #UUtheVOTE team, our team of congregational liaisons and volunteers and other organizations working on voter education and mobilization. In 2021, Allison will focus on communications and development.
Board of Directors
Lia Rivamonte, Co-Chair
Lia is a longtime member of Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul and has served in a number of capacities there from Board Trustee to Worship Associate to member of the Sunday Welcome Team. She works in the arts as administrator and practitioner. She and her husband, Matt Brown, reside in the Little Bohemia neighborhood of St. Paul at Casa Grande. While they adore winters—hockey and shoveling—they look forward to summers on the S/V Kitty Lou on Lake Superior.
Jeff Snyder, Treasurer
After living in Rochester for 38 years, and attending First Universalist Unitarian Church of Rochester for the last seven of those years, Jeff and his wife Karen moved to Minneapolis in June of 2014. While at First UU, Jeff served as a member and chair of the Finance Committee and was on the Board of Directors serving as Treasurer at the time of his departure. Jeff and Karen are new members of First Universalist Church where Jeff is now a member of the Community Investment Team. Jeff’s primary interest in the social justice arena is in the area of environmental justice. He is currently retired and plans to stay that way after a long career with IBM as an engineer and project manager. Jeff and Karen have an adult daughter and son living in Los Angeles and Minneapolis respectively.
Gail Bishop has been a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester for 25 years, having served as a past president of the congregation as well as in other leadership capacities. At First UU she currently is Chair of the Social Justice Council, a member of the Finance and Stewardship Committees, member of the Disability Task Force and serves on one of the church Hospitality Teams. She is an advocate for the disabled, serving for the past eight years on the Board of Directors of PossAbilties, an organization that creates opportunities for children and adults to contribute and connect with the Rochester community. Her family consists of one husband, two daughters and three Westie dogs! When not serving for causes on the ground she is in the air as an instrument rated, private pilot. “At altitude,” she says, “there are no differences – we all appear the same!”
Rev. Rita Capezzi
Rev. Dr. Rita Capezzi has served the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mankato since 2018. She is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and lived 25 years with her spouse and two children in Buffalo, NY. There she taught literature and composition at a Jesuit college, until 2015 when she entered Meadville Lombard Theological School. Rita is happily settled and humbled to companion with others to create a more just world for all.
Judy Foster has been a member of the St. Cloud Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (SCUUF) since 1979, having served in numerous leadership positions, including two terms as president of the Executive Board. Now retired as an English professor at St. Cloud State University, she is active in the community, currently serving on the St. Cloud Area Regional Human Rights Commission. At SCUUF she serves as newsletter editor and chairs the Community Garden and Technology committees. Her current social justice focus is justice for ex-offenders, a joint project with Spirit of Life Unitarian Universalist Church in St. Cloud.
Jo Haberman is a member and social action leader at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth, a founding member of the Duluth Climate and Energy Network coalition, and active with LGBTQ-plus Elders of Duluth and with electoral organizers. She has deep knowledge and experience with nonprofit human rights, environmental and affordable housing groups, including serving on staff of OutFront Minnesota and Alliance for Metropolitan Stability. Jo describes finding and joining her former congregation, the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, in 1981, as a “core life-changing experience.”