Climate Generation thrives based on the efforts of our talented staff, who are passionate about developing solutions to climate change. Team members share: why do you do this work?

Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy is a nationally connected and trusted nonprofit dedicated to climate literacy, climate change education, youth leadership and community engagement for innovative climate change solutions.

Our Board of Directors are committed individuals with experience in law, policy, education, finance, non-profits, marketing, communications, and industry who have a passion for our mission.

The Advisory Board is a group of respected individuals who have an active relationship with Climate Generation and are making exceptional contributions in the area of climate change, renewable energy, philanthropy and policy.

SHE/HER

Lauren Boritzke Smith

Senior Marketing and Communications Manager

“Sharing our stories to create community and intention while we create a better world for the present and future.”

SHE/THEY

Cassandra Breeze Ceballos

Talk Climate Manager

“As a West Indian and descendant of Indigenous Peoples of modern Colombia, storytelling is in my blood. I come from a long tradition of both protecting the Earth and telling her stories, and to help others do so is a true honor.”

HE/HIM

Trevor Cobb

Communications Coordinator

“Climate justice work is important because it impacts every living being on our planet. I care about fighting climate change because I care about maintaining life’s beautiful diversity.”

SHE/HER

Claire Cooke

Programs Coordinator

“I believe we have the power to disrupt the unjust, dehumanizing systems creating the climate crisis to bring about a compassionate world in which all people and the planet can thrive.”

SHE/HER

Marie Fargo

Climate Change Instructional Resources Coordinator

“I believe education can change the world, and so I’m thrilled to empower educators with resources to help them create an equitable, sustainable future with their students.”

SHE/HER

Denise Fosse

Senior Director of Development & Marketing

“I need to do what I can to make sure our children—all children—have Earth to call home.”

SHE/HER

Danielle Hefferan

Regional Minnesota Education Coordinator

"Because what is more important than practicing living well in your place with all who call it home?"

SHE/HER

Lindsey Kirkland

Senior Climate Change Education Manager

“Building a knowledgeable, supportive and connected community around educators is the best way I know how to contribute to future generations.”

SHE/HER

Daniela Kunkel-Linares

YEA! Network Coordinator

“I believe in a radically loving and caring climate movement which is led by young people and our Indigenous relatives. I do this work to stand in solidarity with those who are brave enough to imagine a better future.”

SHE/HER

Susan Phillips

Executive Director

“I believe in the power of youth and community to build a shared awareness and co-create solutions that will help us build a healthy, just and regenerative future.”

SHE/HER

Kristen Poppleton

Senior Director of Programs

“We must bring together young people, educators, the public, and decision makers to learn about and prepare to tackle the issue of our generation.”

HE/HIM

Ethan Quezada

Youth Campaigns Coordinator

“I do this work because I believe in our collective ability to preserve the world, and in that way, preserve and prosper as human beings.”

HE/HIM

Sean Ryan

Grants Manager

"Hope is a discipline. Being involved in climate justice work helps me practice that discipline, one day at a time."

HE/HIM

Ramiro Vazquez, Jr.

Youth Program Manager

“As a relative to all living beings it is important for me to preserve my ancestral Ojibwe homeland, language, and traditions for the future seven generations.”

HE/HIM

Seth Spencer

Teach Climate Network Coordinator

“Helping strengthen connections between educators and their communities allows me to have a direct affect on reducing the negative impacts of climate change.”

SHE/HER

Robin Thorstenson

Senior Finance Manager

“Education leads to understanding. Understanding leads to action. Action leads to change.”

Our Founder, Will Steger

Our Founder, Will Steger

Will Steger led the first confirmed dogsled journey to the North Pole without re-supply in 1986, the 1,600-mile south-north traverse of Greenland in 1988 (the longest unsupported dogsled expedition in history), and the first dogsled traverse of Antarctica in 1989–1990 (the historic seven-month, 3,741-mile International Trans-Antarctica Expedition).

Steger is also an educator, author, entrepreneur, and eyewitness to the effects of climate change. With his ability to blend extreme exploration and cutting edge technology, Steger pioneered online education—reaching more than 20 million students via online daily journals and even delivering the first-ever transmission of digital photography from the North Pole.

Based on his unique eyewitness experience with climate change in the polar regions, he established Climate Generation in 2006 (formerly the Will Steger Foundation), as a Minnesota-based nonprofit that empowers individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.

Steger joined Amelia Earhart, Robert Peary, and Roald Amundsen in receiving the National Geographic Society’s prestigious John Oliver La Gorce Medal for “Accomplishments in Geographic Exploration, in the Sciences, and Public Service to Advance International Understanding” in 1995. This was the first time the Society presented these three categories together and this award has not been given since. Steger holds a Bachelor of Science in geology and Master of Arts in education from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, in addition to five Honorary Doctorates.

In 1996, he became the National Geographic Society’s first Explorer-in-Residence and received the Explorers Club’s Finn Ronne Memorial Award in 1997. In 2006, Steger joined Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Dr. Thor Heyerdahl, and Neil Armstrong in receiving the Lindbergh Award. Steger was given this award for “numerous polar expeditions, deep understanding of the environment and efforts to raise awareness of current environmental threats, especially climate change”. In 2007, National Geographic Adventure presented him with their Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on climate change.

A recognized authority on polar environmental issues and ceaseless advocate for the earth’s wellbeing, Steger has been invited twice to testify before the United States Congress, as well as advise world leaders on the environmental protection of Antarctica. He is also the author of five books: Over the Top of the World, Crossing Antarctica, North to the Pole, Saving the Earth, and The Steger Homestead Kitchen: Simple Recipes for an Abundant Life.

Read more about Will Steger’s legacy on his personal website.

People In Snow
After Antarctica Feature Film

After Antarctica follows follows Climate Generation founder Will Steger’s life journey as an eyewitness to the greatest changes to our planet’s polar regions.

Expedition Archive

When Climate Generation began, our programming centered on adventure learning, expeditions, and climate change’s impact on the Polar Regions.

Directors serve on the Board for three-year terms. They provide fiduciary oversight, strategic vision and direction and financial support for the organization. We are proud to have the energy, time and dedication from the following Board members:

List of Board of Directors:

Jennifer Birnbaum - Director

Jennifer is the Senior Compliance Program Manager in Governance and Planning at Medtronic. Prior to Medtronic, she was the Director for Compliance and Regulatory Affairs at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Jennifer brings experience in governance, legal affairs, passion for our mission and an interest in strategic planning. Jennifer resides in the west metro with her family and has two sons.

Barry Greenwald - Director

Barry Greenwald has been a science educator at Harding High School in the St. Paul Public Schools since 1998. Barry has taught classes in Biology, Environmental Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science. Recently he was appointed as a Teaching Specialist in the University of Minnesota College in the Schools program and is teaching the course Climate Crisis: Implementing Solutions at Harding. Prior to choosing a career in education, Barry was a research technician on the University of Minnesota Corn Breeding Project. He has attended and/or presented at several Climate Generation Summer Institutes for Climate Change Education and served on the former Education Program Committee before joining the Board.

Cathy Kennedy - Chair

Cathy owns Cathryn Kennedy Consulting, a strategic communications firm, she started in 2002. A majority of her client work has focused on nonprofit environmental and clean energy assignments. Previously, she was a senior vice president at Weber Shandwick Public Relations in Minneapolis. Cathy’s other experience includes public service as the press secretary for Minnesota Gov. Al Quie. Cathy graduated Magna Cum Laude. in Journalism from Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, and earned her M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.

Gregg Mast - Director

Gregg serves as the Executive Director for Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM). CEEM is an industry-led, non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening Minnesota’s clean energy business ecosystem. The organization provides a unified voice for clean energy business across the state with a mission to provide educational leadership, collaboration, and policy analysis that accelerates clean energy market growth and smart energy policies. Mr. Mast has nearly 20 years of professional experience in project development, resource analysis, feasibility and financial analysis, and fuel risk management in the clean energy sector. He possesses deep expertise in the economic, marketing, financial, environmental, and policy aspects of clean energy. Mr. Mast has served as Vice President of The BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota where he was responsible for developing a long‐term strategic direction for Minnesota in the areas of renewable energy and renewable materials. Early on in his career, Mr. Mast worked in a variety of corporate finance and management capacities, including at Allianz Life, a wholly‐owned subsidiary of Allianz SE and Target Corporation. Mr. Mast received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a M.B.A. in Finance from the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas.

Alissa Matthies Tamasi - Director

Alissa is the Senior Manager of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Target and has over a decade of experience in corporate environmental work. Alissa recently supported the opening of Target’s first net zero store in Vista, California, where they will generate more energy than they use. A long time friend of Climate Generation, Alissa was a delegate in our Window into COP24 program in 2018.

Ben Passer - Vice Chair

Ben Passer is the Senior Program Officer at McKnight Foundation supporting the Midwest Climate and Energy Program’s goal to take bold action on the climate crisis by dramatically cutting carbon pollution in the Midwest by 2030. Ben’s previous experience includes Directing the Energy Access and Equity Program at Fresh Energy, legal clerkships with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Honeywell International, and internships with Governor Mark Dayton and Senator John Marty. Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from Hamline Mitchell College of Law. He is a member of the Minnesota Bar.

Raj Rajan - Secretary

Dr. Raj Rajan is an independent environmental consultant and Fellow of the Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota. He was formerly the technical lead of corporate sustainability at Ecolab, leading their 2014 effort to become 100% solar powered in MN operations and subsequently negotiated a 100 MW wind power purchase agreement that will make their entire electricity use in North America carbon neutral from 2020 to 2045. He has served on the Advisory Board of Climate Generation since 2015 and is the immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors of Fresh Energy. Currently, Raj also serves on the Board of Directors of Environmental Initiative. He was appointed as the statewide business representative on Minnesota’s Clean Water Council (2015-). He also serves on the Advisory Council of The Nature Conservancy’s Minnesota Headwaters Fund (2015-) and Chair of External Advisory Council for the National Science Foundation project on Sustainable, Healthy and Livable Cities (2015-). Additionally, he serves on the Kresge Foundation’s Urban Climate Adaptation Assessment Advisors’ Group (2015-), and recently participated in Industry Working Groups of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (2014-15), Water Stewardship Advisory Group of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (2014-17), and Sustainability Advisory Workgroup of the American Cleaning Institute (2014-18).

Sean P Smith - Treasurer

Sean P. Smith, CFA is an Investment Manager and Shareholder at Accredited Investors, Inc., a comprehensive wealth management firm located in the Twin Cities. Sean is a CFA charter holder and graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, majoring in Finance & Banking. A member of Accredited’s Investment Committee, Sean has more than 20 years of investment industry experience. Prior to joining Accredited in 2009, Sean worked as an equity research analyst. He lives in Plymouth, Minnesota with his wife, sons, and dogs.

Beth Soholt - Director

Beth Soholt is the Executive Director of Clean Grid Alliance. Launched in 2001, Clean Grid Alliance’s mission is to overcome the barriers to bringing wind and solar power to market. Ms. Soholt brings more than 15 years experience working with the electric industry in various capacities. At Clean Grid Alliance, she directs work in the areas of technical/transmission planning, state regulatory proceedings, legislative education and outreach. Ms. Soholt holds a law degree from Hamline University Law School, St. Paul, Minnesota and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.

Dr. Lisa White - Director

Recent winner of the National Center for Science Education’s Friends of Darwin Award, is the Director of Education and Outreach, Museum of Paleontology, at the University of California, Berkeley. A leader in diversity and inclusion in STEM, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in teaching and engaging youth in geosciences.

The Climate Generation Advisory Board serves as a critical community champion of Climate Generation. Members of the Advisory Board share their gifts in our mission to empower individuals and their communities to engage in solutions to climate change.

The Advisory Board launched the Teach Climate Teachers Scholarship Movement in 2017, in collaboration with Climate Generation’s staff.  Learn more about the initiative.

Dr. John P. Abraham
Professor, School of Engineering, University of St. Thomas

Ellen Anderson
Energy and environmental leader

Bob Blake
Founder and Solar Outreach, Solar Bear

Michael Conley
President, Conley Family Foundation

Leigh Currie
Energy and Climate Attorney. Former Board member/past Board Chair.

Joann Knuth
Retired Education Professional and Consultant

Larry Kraft
St. Louis Park City Council Member and Climate Advocate

Ron Kroese
Retired Philanthropic and Nonprofit Environmental CEO

Julianne Laue
Senior Energy Engineer, Mortenson Construction

Sally Leider
Watershed Educator, Somatic Coach, Empowerment Workshop Leader

James P. Lenfestey
Journalist and Poet, former editorial writer, Star Tribune

Craig Neal
Co-Founder, Center for Purposeful Leadership

Frank Niepold
Climate Education Coordinator and Senior Program Manager, NOAA Climate Program

Tim Nixon
Chief Communications Officer and Global Head of Partnerships & Policy, Constellation Research & Technology

Michael Noble
Executive Director, Fresh Energy. Former Board member/past Board Chair.

Megan O’Hara
Nonprofit Consultant/Project Manager – Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light

Cheryl Olseth
Director, Olseth Family Foundation

Roopali Phadke
Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental Studies, Macalester College and former Board Member

Winthrop Rockwell
Partner and Attorney, Faegre Baker Daniels (retired)

Dr. Benjamin D. Santer
Climate Scientist and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow

Jean Sazevich
Philanthropy Consultant

Dana Slade
Director, Sustainability Programs, HealthPartners

Kate Wolford
President, McKnight Foundation (retired)