Paul Cerkvenik is the president of the Minnesota Private College Council and the Minnesota Private College Fund. The Council and Fund serve the shared needs of the 18 nonprofit institutions that are its members.
On behalf of the Council, Paul is particularly active at the Minnesota Capitol, where he works with leaders from the member institutions to advocate for state policy that meets the needs of students, enhances private higher education and strengthens the state. With the Fund, he seeks to sustain corporate and foundation support to support our institutions and their students, including through scholarships.
Paul’s work representing the interests of Minnesota’s Private Colleges includes service on several boards. He is on the Leadership Council of Generation Next, a member of the Minnesota P-20 Education Partnership, a member of the state’s Higher Education Facilities Authority, and a member of the Greater MSP Partner Advisory Council. Nationally he serves on the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, as well as on the group’s Tax Policy Committee.
He is also on the Executive Committee of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities State Executives.Paul has been president since 2009. He previously worked as an attorney in private practice in Virginia, Minn.; his previous career in politics included serving as legislative director for the Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Before becoming president, he had served on the Council and Fund’s board of directors, including as chair of the Council’s Public Policy Committee.
A native of the Iron Range, he earned his B.S. degree from Saint John’s University in Collegeville and his J.D. from the University of Minnesota. A St. Paul resident and father of three, he’s also a committed curler.
Denise joined the Council on an interim basis in 2023. She is responsible for managing the finance and accounting, human resources and information systems for the organizations. Denise brings over 23 years of experience in the nonprofit fields of education and behavioral health services to the Council. Her previous permanent roles have included controller, CFO, COO and interim CEO before she transitioned to consulting and interim roles in 2022. She has a B.S. in Business Finance from Montana State University in Bozeman.
Communications & marketing
John joined the Council in 2006. He leads the development and implementation of marketing and strategic initiatives that advance the goals of the Council and the interests of our member institutions. He currently serves on the board of Minnesota Campus Compact. He brings experience working with another group of nonprofits in his previous roles as communications director at the Minnesota Hospital Association and an account supervisor at the public affairs firm Himle Horner. He has a B.S. in Political Science and International Studies from Macalester College and a M.S.J. from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Judy joined the Council in 2022. Her primary focus is supporting community college transfer students, including through the development of discipline-specific transfer pathways. She is passionate about supporting student success and equitable access to bachelor’s degree attainment. She worked as a transfer counselor for 19 years at Augsburg University and St. Catherine University. She received her B.A. in Education from Bethel University and her M.A. in Leadership and M.F.A in Creative Writing from Augsburg University.
Lisa joined the Council in 2015. She is responsible for the Council's websites, newsletters, social media and other electronic communications as well as marketing and advertising campaigns. Previously, Lisa worked in communications at the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Barr Engineering Co. and has worked as a freelance consultant for the Minnesota Department of Education and iSeek Solutions. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from St. Olaf College, a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University and a non-credit Management Certificate from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Olivia joined the Council in 2023. She coordinates student advocacy for the State Grant program during the legislative session and supports the Council’s communications projects and events. Prior to joining the Council, Olivia was a Special Education Teacher and spent time as a grassroots organizer for nonprofits and community groups. Olivia graduated from Augsburg University with a Bachelor of Arts, where she studied Special Education and Political Science. She currently is a graduate student at Bethel University, studying Educational Leadership.
Sunny works to help member institutions increase participation and success of students of color, as well as to improve links with ethnic business leaders and groups. She spent three years as a development officer for the Minnesota Private College Fund and has also worked for the Minnesota Council of Foundations as coordinator of the Education Access Funders Network and as director of development at Minnesota Minority Education Partnership.
Minnesota Private College Fund
Roshandra joined the fund in 2023. She has over 10 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations in Minnesota and has a strong commitment to race equity and helping to advance the lives of people of color in our communities. She is dedicated to higher education equity and access to ensure that students not only are able to attend post-secondary institutions but also have the support needed to succeed and launch successful careers. Roshandra is a board member of Minnesota Education Equity Partnership and sits on the College Race Equity Advocacy Advisory Council. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Matthew joined the Fund in 1999. He maintains the Fund's extensive database and paper files and processes all of the Fund's correspondence. He is a three-time recipient of support from the Minnesota State Arts Board for his work as a playwright —a 2007 Artist Initiative Grant of $6,000, a 2002 Career Opportunity Grant of $1,500, and an $8,000 Theater Artist Fellowship in 1999. He holds an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.
Inika joined the Fund in 2022. She supports scholarship recipients through data management, event coordination and creating connections amongst community and institutional contacts. Her previous work includes guiding students through the college process and creating avenues of agency for students. She is passionate about increasing transparency and access within higher education to ease student experiences while in college and for success after graduation. Inika has a bachelor's degree in Global Studies and Political Science from the University of Minnesota.
Policy & research
Alison joined the Council in 2018. She was most recently the Director of Government Affairs at the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Prior to her five years at the Commerce Department, she worked in the Minnesota State Senate. Alison is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas, where as an undergraduate she was the recipient of the Spirit of St. Thomas Award for Outstanding Leadership as well as the Global Citizen Award.
Megan joined the Council in 2012. She leads the Council’s research efforts, providing data and analysis to support the Council’s policy agenda and admissions work. She previously worked as a research analyst for Applied Policy Research, Inc., a higher education net revenue management consulting company. Megan earned a B.A. in Economics from Carleton College and Master of Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.