fellowship steering team
The Initiators Fellowship expanded to include Northwest Minnesota Foundation for the 2022-2023 Cohort. The Southwest Initiative Foundation and West Central Initiative started supporting Fellows for the 2020-2021 Cohort.
The Initiators Fellowship is guided by the steady stewardship of Steering Team members.
Initiators Fellowship Independent Consultant
Andrea Davila specializes in supporting social venture funds and social enterprises. She was previously the deputy director at Echoing Green, a pioneering social venture capital fund based in New York.
Over the past 10 years, she has supported entrepreneurs, government leaders and philanthropists in their drive to build organizations with a focus on social and economic mobility. She has worked in local and federal government, in direct service and philanthropy, at the City of New York, The Blue Ridge Foundation, the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau and Let’s Get Ready. Andrea is an experienced problem-solver and capacity-builder for early stage social enterprise. She is passionate about social enterprise and serves on the advisory committee for the Program for Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University, as well as the board of the Impact Hub MSP. She holds a bachelor’s in philosophy from Barnard College and a master’s in business administration from Columbia Business School.
Southwest Initiative Foundation Vice President
As vice president at Southwest Initiative Foundation, Scott Marquardt is engaged in business finance, entrepreneurship, child care and regional economic development efforts. He also serves as lead staff to the Investment Committee and Farmland Committee.
Prior to joining Southwest Initiative Foundation in 2007, Scott was economic development director for the city of Montevideo. Scott currently is the board chair for the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, a member of the Blandin Foundation Broadband Strategy Board and a member of the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Education and Certification Advisory Committee. He also is a board member and loan committee member for Propel Nonprofits. Scott currently serves on the conference committee for the Economic Development Association of Minnesota. He is also a member of the Local Economy Foundation Circle through the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). Locally, he is the chair of Montevideo’s Police Civil Service Commission and Planning Commission. Scott has a master’s of public administration from the University of South Dakota and is a certified economic developer through IEDC and a certified economic development finance professional through the National Development Council.
As program manager for the Initiators Fellowship, Christine Metzo facilitates all facets of the program. She oversees the application process for cohorts, organizes convenings, manages mentor-Fellow relationships and coordinates program execution.
Christine most recently served as the director of first-year and transfer experience at St. Cloud State University (SCSU). During her time at St. Cloud State, she managed a variety of programs, including mentoring and coaching initiatives to support students and professional development work with faculty and staff. Christine holds a doctorate degree in philosophy and advanced degrees and certificates in women’s studies, geography and social theory. Prior to working at St. Cloud State she taught philosophy and women’s studies to college students around the state of Minnesota. Christine volunteers with SCSU’s Community Anti-Racism Education Initiative, Saint John’s Preparatory School and GREAT Theatre. She lives in St. Cloud and enjoys sailing, hiking, and traveling with her family, as well as spending time on her hobbies of knitting, photography and ceramics.
Northwest Minnesota Foundation
Vice President, Operations
As vice president for operations at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Michael Neusser helps ensure organizational operations are aligned with the mission and vision of the Foundation. Additionally, he plays a key role in facilitating collaborative efforts among staff and with external partners.
Michael grew up in Wisconsin and is an enrolled member of the Sault Sainte Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. From 1993 to 2000 he worked for the tribe as a general manager for satellite casinos. His career then transitioned into various sales and marketing roles in the private sector. He also worked simultaneously as a consultant for a number of businesses. After years of working in a corporate setting, Neusser wanted to get back into tribal relations work in the public sector. A friend encouraged him to look into Bemidji, Minn., as it is uniquely positioned around three different tribes that may have a career opportunity. He ended up finding a position with the White Earth Nation as an economic development and marketing manager. He continued working for the White Earth Nation for seven years in various roles, most recently as the economic development director. Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy administration from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a master’s in tribal administration and governance from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
West Central Initiative President
Anna Wasescha is the president of West Central Initiative (WCI), guides its strategic direction and serves as its chief spokesperson. As a member of the Initiators Fellowship Steering Committee, Anna is leveraging her higher education background where she helped to shape several certificate and degree programs designed to provide maximum benefits to students while upholding rigorous standards for quality and relevance.
Anna is committed to creating opportunities for individuals to realize their highest ambitions while addressing the systemic barriers that too often stand in the way. She served as provost of Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls before moving to Connecticut, where she was the president of Middlesex Community College. She earned all three of her degrees—a bachelor of arts, a master’s and her doctorate—from the University of Minnesota. She lives with her husband on one of the thousand lakes that dot the landscape in Otter Tail County.
Initiative Foundation Vice President, Inclusive Entrepreneurship
As vice president for entrepreneurship at the Initiative Foundation, Brian Voerding’s primary focus is to grow economic development partnerships while supporting new and existing businesses through the Initiative Foundation’s lending programs.
Brian also oversees the Foundation’s Initiators Fellowship and Enterprise Academy programs, two region-wide initiatives to elevate entrepreneurs and aspiring business leaders so they can develop job-creating ventures. He also has primary responsibility for developing and maintaining the organization’s business and technical assistance program. Brian joined the Foundation after founding and serving as executive director of Engage Winona, a grassroots community initiative and social enterprise that works to ensure local people have access, voice and power in community planning, decision-making and change-making. Prior to his community engagement efforts, Brian was executive editor of the Winona Daily News. When he’s not working, Brian enjoys volunteering for nonprofits, joining food co-ops and exploring Central Minnesota’s communities and cultures.