We know that in order to do the kind of work we do, we need a team who brings a diverse set of lived experiences, knowledge, skills, and passion to work alongside you. Meet our core team:


Sook Jin Ong

Sook Jin leads the Future Services Institute, a new initiative of the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center. In this role, she brings her interest and practice in blending human-centered design and participatory leadership principles to be of service to those in human services. Prior to this, she managed the partnership between the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Minnesota Department of Human Services on improving service delivery in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). Previously, she spent several years in the corporate sector as a consultant. Sook Jin earned her bachelor’s degree in management and economics from the University of Sydney, Australia and graduated with a master's degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. 

Sook Jin comes from the multicultural cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She posits that you can take her out of Malaysia, but not the Malaysian out of her - that spirit lives in how she hosts spaces and graphically records the world around her.


Jodi Sandfort
Academic Director

Jodi Sandfort is the Academic Director of the Future Services Institute. She is also a Professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and chairs the Management and Leadership Area. Jodi's research, teaching, and practice all focus on improving the implementation of social policy, particularly those policies designed to support low-income children and their families. She received a Ph.D. in political science and social work (1997) and a Master's in Social Work (MSW; 1994) from the University of Michigan.

Jodi has spent her career moving back and forth between professional practice and academic posts. She was a Senior Fellow at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and directed the Human Service Program at the McKnight Foundation where she managed a portfolio of $20 million in annual giving directed to the human service system in Minnesota.

Jodi is currently a Scholar with the national Family Self-Sufficiency and Stability Consortium. Originally from Menomonie, Wisconsin, Sandfort lives with her husband, Steve Marchese, and two sons in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she likes to cross-country ski and garden. Jodi's work can be found at www.jodisandfort.org.  


Stephanie Jacobs
Public & Nonprofit Leadership Center Director

Stephanie Jacobs is director of the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center (PNLC), a community that creates and nurtures excellence in public affairs management and leadership. Prior to joining the PNLC, Stephanie was Program Director at the Nonprofits Assistance Fund. Previously, she was director of member services at the Minnesota Council on Foundations and consulting associate with Fieldstone Alliance.

Stephanie is a graduate of St. Olaf College and holds a master's degree in public policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Stephanie participated in the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Leadership Institute and is an active volunteer in the Minnesota nonprofit community.

When not at the Humphrey School, you'll find Stephanie on her bike, catching some live music at a concert, or hiking or camping in one of Minnesota's state or regional parks.


Robin Phinney
Research Director

Robin joins FSI as our Research Director. She received her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Science from the University of Michigan. Her research and teaching focus on American politics and social policy, with an emphasis on interest group advocacy, the policymaking process, and the well-being of low-income families. Robin brings an interdisciplinary perspective to her research, which has been published in leading journals of political science, public policy, and social work. Her book on collaborative lobbying and social policymaking is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press. Prior to joining FSI, Robin taught courses in American politics, public policy, and research methods at Brown University and the University of Minnesota. 

In her spare time, Robin would love to be camping in the Pacific Northwest, but is usually at home in Minneapolis (happily) corralling her two young sons. 


Jen Mein
Innovation Manager

Jen is one of our Innovation Managers. She is highly successful in cultivating authentic engagement that invites diversity of perspectives into critical conversations, fosters creativity and innovation, and energizes motivated individuals and groups to experiment with new ways of working, learning, and leading. She is recognized as someone who contributes to the field and honors the integrity of practices within the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations That Matter local and global community. Prior to joining the Future Services Institute team, she served as an internal consultant to University of Minnesota leaders in areas of leadership development, engagement, and campus climate. She has an M.Ed. in Human Resource Development and B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Playing various board and card games with her family, enjoying a nature walk with friends, practicing graphic recording are just some of the ways Jen spends her free time. 


Isadora Collins Tabue
Innovation Manager

Isadora is one of our Innovation Managers. Isadora is passionate about all issues to do with innovation, equity, and inclusion. Isadora has served in a variety of professional roles within public and nonprofit workforce development. In these roles, Isadora served as an advocate in support of eliminating barriers that hinder education and professional advancement of individuals from communities of color. Isadora received her Bachelors of Arts in Professional Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations from Metropolitan State University. She completed her Masters of Public Affairs at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

In her free time, Isadora enjoys capturing moments in time, traveling, good eats and hosting family and friends in her home.



Trupti Sarode
Learning and Evaluation Manager

Trupti brings her expertise in program evaluation to the Future Services Institute. In addition to being our program evaluation guru, she is a current PhD student at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. As a Master of Development Practice graduate from the Humphrey School of Public affairs, she focused on early childhood development, global health, and human development.

Some of her work was with the Sustainable Healthy Cities, Sustainability Research Network funded by the National Science Foundation, Neighborhood House, Global Volunteers in St. Paul, and the Southside Community Health Services, Inc. Her experiences with large foundations such as the MasterCard Foundation (for its projects in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (Egypt) provided her an international perspective to her work. Originally, from India, Trupti completed her undergraduate degree in dentistry from Mumbai, India. 


Keisha Blackman
Executive Office and Administrative Specialist

Keisha supports the work of the Future Services Institute in a variety of projects and act as a liaison in the work with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and local human service offices and tribes across Minnesota. Previously, she held a position in the University of Minnesota's Office of Equity & Diversity as the Assistant to the Director and Office Manager of The Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence (MCAE). Keisha served a similar role at Hedgeman Center, Hamline University. Prior to working in the higher education sector, she spent almost twenty years in the nonprofit sector advocating for youth and families throughout the Twin Cities.

Originally from Chicago, IL, Keisha grew up in South Minneapolis. She currently lives in Richfield, MN. She enjoys food, family and anything that involves her amazing boys!


Kamaria Woyee
Principal Office and Administrative Specialist

Kamaria supports the work of the Future Services Institute in a variety of workforce development projects and our communications efforts. Kamaria operated in several positions within the financial industry over the last 10 years. During that time, she became involved with Social Assistance in Individual and Family Services for children with Autism, which fostered her awareness and interest in social policy.

She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography from Argosy University Twin Cities. During her free time, Kamaria enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the movies, and exploring the Cities kid-friendly spots with her daughter. 


Weston Merrick
Graduate Research Assistant

Weston joins FSI and the Humphrey School as a graduate research assistant and PhD candidate in public policy. He brings experience in policy analysis, performance measurement, research design, and using evidence to inform decision-making. Weston also leads Minnesota Management & Budget’s Results First Initiative, an effort to use high-quality evidence to estimate the extent to which publicly funded services generate positive, cost-effective outcomes for Minnesotans. Previously, he evaluated the effectiveness of business incentive and workforce development programs for the Department of Employment & Economic Development.
Weston holds a Master’s in Public Affairs from Indiana University and BSBA in Finance from the University of Missouri. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Weston met his wife and Minnesota native, Cassie, during undergrad. As a Minnesota transplant, he spends his summers on patios and winters indoors with his pup, Dewey.


Omar Leal
Graduate Research Assistant

Omar is a Masters of Public Policy student originally from San Jose, CA. As a transplant, Omar has engaged in community engagement work with various nonprofits throughout the Twin Cities. After some time as a youth worker with Latinx teens in South Minneapolis, he decided to join Humphrey to be better equipped to support underrepresented and marginalized communities in creating inclusive, systemic change.

Omar received his Bachelors of Arts from Macalester College, where he double majored in Anthropology and International Studies. In his moments of free time, Omar enjoys exploring the Twin Cities, cooking and camping (weather permitting).