International Program Speaker Biographies


Monday, Aug. 18, 2014

1 – 2:15 p.m. - Welcome and Introductions Session

The Honorable Paul Thissen, Speaker of the House, Minnesota

Minnesota Speaker of the House Paul Thissen was born and raised in the Twin Cities, where both of his parents were public school teachers. Paul was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2002, and after just four years of legislative service, he was appointed Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. He was elected to serve as Minority Leader for the 2011-2012 biennium and led his DFL colleagues back to majority status in November of 2012. Paul was elected by his colleagues to serve as Speaker of the House in January of 2013. 
In 2006, Paul was named one of "Forty Under 40" top business professionals in the Twin Cities by the Twin Cities Business Journal. In 2008 and 2013, Paul was recognized as one of the 100 Influential Minnesotans in Health Care by Physician Magazine. He was named one of the Twin Cities "Best Brains" in Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine, and the Washington Post also recently named Paul an "Emerging Star Outside the Beltway."
Paul attended Harvard University, and after graduating, he attended the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as an editor of the law review. He is currently a partner at the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum.Paul and his wife Karen were married in 1993 and they have three children: Emily, Griffin and Evan. 

Senator Verna Jones Rodwell, Maryland; Co-Chair of the Task Force on International Relations

Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell, co-chair of the NCSL International Relations Task Force, was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1998 to represent the 44th Legislative District in Baltimore City.  She served one term in the House and then was elected to the Senate in 2002 and has twice been reelected to that office. Verna has been a member of the state’s powerful legislative fiscal team since taking office in 1999, first on the House Appropriations Committee and is currently a senior member of the Senate Budget and Taxation committee. She is also Senate chair of Maryland’s statutory committees on Management of Public Funds and Pensions. Other leadership positions in the General Assembly held by Verna include former Senate chair of the Joint Audit committee, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and executive board of Women Legislative of the Maryland General Assembly, Inc.  
By working in collaboration with key stakeholders, Senator Jones-Rodwell has championed and secured over $3.5 billion for community economic development projects and funding in the 44th District including transit oriented development, infrastructure improvement,  housing production,  hospital construction,school construction and rehabilitation and historic preservation. 
Verna has a B.A. from the University of Maryland at College Park and a M.P.A. from Baruch College, City University of New York. She also holds a certificate in Senior Executives in State and Local Government from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Senator Jones-Rodwell is married to Dr. Gary D. Rodwell and has one son, Julian Walker-Rodwell.

Senator Pamela Althoff, Illinois; Co-Chair of the Task Force on International Relations

Senator Pamela J. Althoff was appointed to the Illinois State Senate in March of 2003 and elected to a four-year term in November of 2004. She has championed legislation to increase open space, expand the agricultural industry and promote improved statewide economic growth. She is a proponent of improving the business/job climate of Illinois, obtaining equitable education funding reform, tax reforms and senior health issues.
In the Senate, she serves as the Senate Republican Caucus Chair as a part of the Senate Republican Leadership.  Sen. Althoff is the Minority Spokeswoman for the Revenue and Assignments Committees, and also serves on the Transportation, Labor & Commerce, Appropriations II, and Licensed Activities & Pensions Committees. Senator Althoff is part of the Domestic Violence Task Force, the Early Learning Council, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), the Environmental Caucus, the Midwest Higher Education Commission, and sits on the Executive Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures. 
Senator Althoff has been extremely involved in her community. She currently serves on the MCC Foundation Board, is a member of the Community Development Block Grant Board, and is the Secretary and Treasurer of the McHenry Council of Governments. Past organizations she has been involved with include the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, the Fox Waterway Agency, League of Women Voters and more. She has been named a "Guardian of Small Business" by the National Federation of Independent Business, developed a personnel policy for Fox Waterway Agency, established a Mayors Consortium to identify and coordinate northeastern McHenry County transportation issues, and much more during her career. 
Prior to coming to the Senate, Senator Althoff was the McHenry City Mayor from 2001 to 2003. Other positions she has held in her career include a Special Education teacher, an Assistant Administrator with the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce, a Sales and Marketing Representative, and the McHenry City Clerk and Collector. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Education from Illinois State University in 1975, and her Master's Degree in Education from Northeastern Illinois University in 1978. 

2:15 – 3 p.m. - Current Trends in Governance Worldwide

Mr. Karl Kurtz, Director, NCSL Trust for Representative Democracy Division

Karl Kurtz has worked for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) since its founding in 1975.  He is director of NCSL’s Trust for Representative Democracy, a public outreach and education program designed to promote civic engagement and counter public cynicism and distrust toward American democracy.  Karl has written, consulted and lectured widely on American state legislatures, elections and public opinion.  He is coauthor of Republic on Trial: The Case for Representative Democracy and coeditor of Institutional Change in American Politics: The Case of Term Limits.  Karl writes for and edits NCSL’s blog, The Thicket.  He has provided advice and assistance in the development of democratic institutions to legislators and legislative staff in Algeria, Brazil, Georgia, Kosovo, Nigeria, Russia, and South Africa. Before joining NCSL, Karl taught political science at the University of Georgia.  He worked on the staff of the United States Congress as a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association. He holds an AB degree from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. from Washington University (St. Louis).

J. Brian Atwood, Former Dean and Professor, Chair, Global Policy area, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota

J. Brian Atwood became dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in October 2002, where he is widely credited for raising the school's profile and national ranking. He served for six years as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) during the Administration of President William Clinton. In the Clinton Administration, Atwood led the transition team at the State Department and was Under Secretary of State for Management prior to his appointment as head of USAID.
During the Carter Administration, Atwood served as Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations. He was dean of Professional Studies and Academic Affairs at the Foreign Service Institute in 1981 to 1982 and the first president of the National Democratic Institute for international Affairs (1986 to 1993). In 2001, Atwood served on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's Panel on Peace Operations. He writes and speaks frequently on international development, post-conflict reconstruction, foreign policy, the role of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations in international affairs, and the United States' role in the world order. Atwood holds a bachelor's degree in government and history from Boston University and received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from American University. He joined the Foreign Service in 1966 and served in the American Embassies in Cote d'Ivoire and Spain. In January 2011, Atwood took a leave from the University to serve as chair of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The DAC is a permanent forum of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that coordinates international development policy. 

Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014

8:15 – 11:30 a.m. - Education Reform and Oversight Mechanisms Briefing and Roundtable Discusssions

Lee Posey, Senior Committee Director, NCSL 

Lee White Posey is a committee director working with the Education Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). She conducts NCSL lobbying activities in education, representing state positions and concerns to Congress and the Administration. Lee has been at NCSL since 1999. Her NCSL experience includes four years as committee director for the Human Services and Welfare Committee and the Agriculture and Energy Committee. Before coming to NCSL, Lee was a policy analyst for the Georgia Senate, focusing on education and child care issues. In that position, she staffed the standing Senate Education Committee and various interim education study committees. She also worked for the Education Development Division of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget while in Georgia, performing research on education issues, analyzing budget requests from education agencies, assisting education agencies in implementing programs and policies, and analyzing state and federal legislation affecting education. She holds a Masters degree in Political Science from Georgia State University and a Bachelors degree from Davidson College.

Ken Levine, Director, Sunset Advisory Commission, Texas Legislature 

The Director is responsible for all operations of the Sunset Commission, including direction and approval of all staff analysis, evaluations and reports and physical operations. Levine has previously served eight years as Sunset deputy director, six years as assistant director and 14 years as policy/senior analyst. He has almost three decades of experience covering 14 Texas legislative sessions in developing proposals to improve government operations and programs through Sunset recommendations. 
Levine studied political science at Rider University. He holds a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a master's from The University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. He is also a Fellow of the Public Policy Dispute Resolution Center of The University of Texas School of Law, served three terms on the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society Executive Committee with one term as chair and has served the National Conference on State Legislatures as a member of the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee and as vice chair of the standing committee on Budget and Revenue.

Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014 

12 – 1:15 p.m. - International Attendee Luncheon

The Honorable Sandra Pappas, Senate President, Minnesota

Senator Sandy Pappas was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 1984. In 1990 she was elected to the Minnesota State Senate and is now serving her 7th term as Senate President and ranking minority member in the Higher Education Committee.  Her district includes downtown St. Paul, inner city neighborhoods to the west, north and south of downtown, and the area surrounding the State Capitol. 
Pappas has championed numerous efforts to insure the exceptional quality of Minnesota’s institutions and affordable access to its colleges and universities. She has increased funding for first-generation college students and increased childcare grants and college access programs. Pappas is known as a human rights and women’s advocate, a consumer protection watchdog and a protector of the environment. She has passed legislation to prohibit the trafficking of persons; to curtail investment of state pension funds in companies complicit in genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan; to provide emergency contraception for sexual assault victims; to eliminate predatory lending practices, regulate debt settlement companies and to require that state-funded construction and renovation of buildings do not produce an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to her Senate responsibilities, Pappas serves on the board for World Without Genocide, is Vice President of the Women Legislators’ Lobby and is the chair and founding member of Forward Global Women. Born in Hibbing, Minnesota, Pappas attended the University of Minnesota, graduated from Metropolitan State University, and earned an MPA degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is married to Neal Gosman, and they have three married daughters — Mina Ruth, Leah Davida, and Sarah Chava. Besides traveling to Israel to visit her fifteen grandchildren, Pappas enjoys attending the theater, biking, reading novels, and spending time with friends.

Ms. Lori Sturdevant, Editorial writer and columnist, StarTribune

Lori Sturdevant writes editorials and a weekly column about topics she has covered for more than 30 years, state government and politics. She joined the Minneapolis Tribune as a summer replacement reporter in 1975, returned as a reporter in 1976, and was lead Capitol reporter and a newsroom assignment editor before joining the editorial staff in 1992. A native of South Dakota, Lori is a graduate of Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and a member of that institution’s Board of Trustees. She has been the editor or co-author of eight books, including “A Man’s Reach: The Autobiography of Elmer L. Andersen.” Her latest book is “Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement,” released by Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2014. She is also the author of “The Pillsburys of Minnesota,” Nodin Press, 2011. Lori lives in St. Paul with her husband; they have three grown children.