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.
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:
Jennifer Birnbaum – Chair
Jennifer most recently served as 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 our youth programming. Jennifer resides in the west metro with her family and has two sons.
Cathy Kennedy – Vice Chair
With more than 25 years of experience with strategic communication, Cathy focuses on communicating complicated public policy issues; connecting all types of clients with the media; and developing creative message strategies. Before starting her independent consulting business in 2002, Cathy was a senior vice president at Weber Shandwick Public Relations in Minneapolis. She has earned numerous awards including the prestigious Silver Anvil award in public affairs from the Public Relations Society of America. Cathy’s other experience includes public service as the press secretary for a Minnesota Gov. Al Quie and media director for the Minnesota House Republican Caucus. Cathy is the former president of the Minnesota Public Relations Society of America and currently serves on the A. Q. Miller Journalism Advisory Council at Kansas State University and is a public affairs volunteer for the American Red Cross.
Sean P. Smith – Treasurer
Sean P. Smith 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 is a member of Accredited’s investment committee. He lives in Plymouth, Minnesota with his wife and two children. They enjoy spending as much time as possible outdoors, whether at regional parks and trails, or at their family cabin in northern Wisconsin.
Joann Knuth – Secretary
Joann Knuth is an Education Consultant and the past Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of Secondary School principals. Knuth has over 40 years of experience in education as an educator, principal, and superintendent in the St. Paul Public Schools. She has led efforts to create a vision for the high school of the 21st century and an evaluation model and process for Minnesota’s principals. She lives in New Brighton with her husband Dan and has two grown children.
Andrew Gibbons – Director
Andrew Gibbons is an attorney at Stinson Leonard Street LLP in Minneapolis, practicing in the areas of energy and environmental law, with a focus on renewable energy projects. Andrew has been a supporter of renewable energy and climate change solutions since studying the geophysical sciences as an undergraduate, and is excited to put his passion for the cause to work by furthering the Climate Generation mission. Andrew lives in St. Paul with his wife and two daughters.
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 even some 9th grade Physical Science early in my career. Prior to choosing a career in education, Barry did agricultural research at the University of Minnesota and sales/administration with a couple of private companies. He has attended several Climate Generation Summer Institutes for Climate Change Education and the Education Program Committee.
Ron Kroese – Director
Prior to retiring from The McKnight Foundation in early 2015, Ron served for nine years as a program officer and program director for the Foundation’s Mississippi River Program. In 2018 he completed an oral history archiving project as a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture’s Endowed Chair Program. The project involved conducting video interviews with individuals who played key roles over the past four decades in the formation and development of federal and state public policies that advanced sustainable farming and food production. Before coming to The McKnight Foundation, he served as executive director of Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a coalition of nonprofit groups focused on strengthening Minnesota’s environmental and conservation policies. In 1982, he co-founded the Minnesota-based sustainable agriculture organization, Land Stewardship Project, serving as executive director for 11 years.
Christie Manning — Director
For the last 10 years Dr. Christie Manning has taught in the Department of Environmental Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul. Her research and teaching explore the cognitive, social and situational factors that influence people’s behavioral and lifestyle choices and how these choices positively or negatively impact ecological and social systems. Christie co-edited a 2018 book, Psychology and Climate Change, and she also co-authored a 2017 review article in the journal Science, “Beyond the roots of human inaction: Fostering collective effort toward ecosystem conservation”. In her free time she is an avid biker and urban hiker.
Ben Passer — Director
Ben Passer is the Director for Energy Access and Equity at Fresh Energy working to advance equitable outcomes across Minnesota’s energy system, and also supports the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. He joined Fresh Energy as a Policy Associate in May 2015. Ben’s previous experience includes 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 William Mitchell College of Law. He is a member of the Minnesota Bar.
Raj Rajan — Director
Dr. Raj Rajan is currently a Visiting Professor in Environmental Studies at Macalester College 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 (2015-2019). 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).
Michelle Rosier — Director
Michelle Rosier is the Distributed Energy Resource Specialist for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. She has 15+ years experience in analysis and community engagement on climate, energy and environmental justice policy in Minnesota. She earned her Master’s in Public Policy focused on regulatory and industry analysis of climate and energy issues from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Michelle grew up in Mt. Iron on the Iron Range, and now resides in St. Paul.
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 power to market. 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. Soholt holds a law degree from Hamline University Law School, St. Paul, Minnesota and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.
Will Steger – Founder & Director
Will Steger is known for his numerous polar expeditions, deep understanding of the environment and his efforts to raise international awareness to environmental threats. Steger has been an eyewitness to the on-going impacts of climate change. He is a seasoned polar explorer, educator, and the author of several books including North to the Pole. Over the Top of the World, and Saving the Earth.