Initiatives and Priorities

Operational Excellence Staff Work Group

Andrea Backes

Andrea Backes is finance director for the College of Biological Sciences. Her previous roles have included chief administrative officer for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and senior data analyst for Management Information Services. In the latter position she built and maintained student, financial, instructional, and class tables and reports for the University. In her current role, Andrea develops analytical tools to increase comprehension of complex financial and management issues. After 25 years at the University, Andrea has experience working for six colleges both as a regular employee and an "on loan" asset to help programs in transition, in addition to a 5-year stint in the Office of Information Technology.

Leslie Krueger

Leslie Krueger has served as Chief of Staff for University Services for the past 7 years. During her tenure, she has led U Services in the development of strategic goals and objectives and designed and executed a departmental strategic business planning process for University Services units. Prior to coming to the University, Leslie worked at the City of Minneapolis for 10 years—her final 3 years as the City's Performance Measurement and Business Planning Coordinator. She holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Chicago.

Jill Merriam

Jill Merriam is finance director for the Office of the Sr. Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Her duties include oversight of the budget and human resource functions for the Office of the President, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, University of Minnesota System and various units that report to these offices. She started working at the University in 1980 as a student employee for five years and a full-time accountant for two years. Jill left the University for two years and then returned in 1989 to work in various financial roles in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. In 1998 she became the finance director for the Law School and six years later returned to Morrill Hall in her current position.

Peter Radcliffe

Peter Radcliffe is Executive Director of the Office of Planning and Analysis. He has worked at the University since 1998, when he completed his Ph.D. in political science. Peter is an active researcher in the areas of student success and institutional assessment, and helped found the University of Minnesota Analysts Group.

Donna Saathoff

Donna Saathoff is currently serving as HR Consultant in the Office of Human Resources, a position she has held since March 2009. Her responsibilities include advising and partnering on a broad spectrum of complex management and organizational issues with a variety of collegiate and central administrative units, including the President's office, the Office of the Sr. Vice President and Provost, and the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, University of Minnesota System. In addition to her current position, Donna has acted in various capacities at the University since 1988, including as HR consultant from 1992–1997. She also served in President Mark Yudof's administration from 1997–2002, and President Robert Bruninks' administration from 2002–2004, where she was responsible for policy and human resources issues. From 2004–2009, she left the University to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology until her return in March 2009.

Eric Schnell

Eric Schnell has worked at the University since 1996, in positions in Human Resources, the College of Continuing Education and currently in the Office for Equity and Diversity as the Chief Administrative and Information Officer. He is a past and current sponsor of President's Emerging Leader (PEL) project teams, and is also enjoying being a PEL mentor. Eric has a Master's in Education from Colorado State University.

Matthew Sumera

Matthew Sumera is associate director, strategic initiatives, in University Relations. He has worked at the University since 1998, and was a participant in the 2001–2002 President's Emerging Leaders (PEL) cohort. In addition to his work at the University, he is also a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology.

Lisa Warren

Lisa Warren is chief of staff to the Vice President for Research. She has worked at the University since 1987 in both academic and administrative offices. She is an alum of the 2002–2003 President's Emerging Leaders (PEL) program and was this year chosen to participant in the first ever Minnesota Partnership for Executive Leadership Development which includes participants from both the University of Minnesota and MNSCU (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities). She has a B.S. Accounting degree from the Carlson School of Management, and is also a 2012 MPA (Masters of Public Affairs) candidate at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Leanne Wirkkula

Leanne Wirkkula is Assistant Dean for Strategic & Academic Initiatives in the Carlson School of Management, where she contributes to organizational strategy and planning, consults on and implements solutions to complex management issues, and oversees the School's integrated marketing/communications unit as well as Multicultural Affairs & Diversity Education, a specialized student affairs unit. Leanne has 22 years of project management and leadership experience at the University of Minnesota. Previously, she served in the Office of the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost (under 3 different Provosts); the College of Education and Human Development; and the Department of Men's Intercollegiate Athletics. She also is a member of the Higher Learning Commission's consultant-evaluator corps. Leanne earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Minnesota. Her doctoral studies focused on strategic planning in higher education.