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Meet the Team
The Strategic Partnerships and Research Collaborative (SPARC) has established an institutional hub to position the University of Minnesota’s faculty, staff, and students for innovative projects and global opportunities. The SPARC core staff is made up of individuals who are experienced in administratively complex and unique projects and programs. Our Advisory Board also plays a key role in SPARC activities.
Amy Kircher, Dr.P.H., Co-Director
Amy Kircher has been Director of the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) for the past seven years. As director, she provides overall strategic leadership for the Institute, an internationally recognized organization working to mitigate food system disruption, through interdisciplinary research and development of innovative solutions in collaboration with external partners and stakeholders. She has led and managed the Institute with a $85M research portfolio, completing over 200 research projects with subawards to over 50 research partners. Dr. Kircher has partnered with international universities, foreign governments, UN agencies, USG agencies, and NGOs on food and global health projects. Her current research portfolio includes identification and warning of food system disruption and emerging disease through data fusion and analysis; supply chain characterization and assessment; and disaster preparedness. Prior to FPDI, Dr. Kircher was an epidemiologist with the DOD focused on emergency preparedness and response policy, operations and research.
Katey Pelican, D.V.M., Ph.D., Co-Director
Katey Pelican has administered international projects for the past fifteen years, including large USAID projects for the past nine. She is Principal Investigator of the USAID One Health Workforce Project (ceiling being raised to $63 million, UMN Prime) which supports university networks in Africa and Asia to build a global workforce to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats (79 Universities in 15 countries total). Dr. Pelican has also developed, with USDA, FAO, CDC, and USAID, the OH-SMART toolkit for improving multisectoral coordination and decision making. The toolkit has been implemented in 20 countries to support zoonotic disease, One Health, and Antimicrobial Resistance Action Planning as well as climate change disease risk and community impact planning. Prior to UMN, Dr. Pelican was a wildlife researcher with the Smithsonian Institution and helped initiate an Environmental Change and Species Survival Initiative and lead the Smithsonian-wide Cryobanking initiative.
Ian Allen, M.A., Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist
Ian does Monitoring & Evaluation for the USAID One Health Workforce project. His work is focused on developing and tracking performance indicators to support organizational learning, informed decision-making, and strategic planning. He has over 5 years of experience working on international programmatic evaluations and training higher education faculty and researchers on approaches to measure the impact of their work. He is also currently working on a PhD in Comparative and International Development Education in the College of Education and Human Development.
Annie Branan, M.B.A., Finance Manager
Annie is currently the Finance Analyst for the USAID-funded One Health Workforce (OHW) Project, a $63.7M international project. She has over 10 years of diversified experience in management, research administration, and academic administration, spanning the University's tripartite mission and lending a broad perspective that extends beyond finance. She holds an MBA from the Carlson School of Management and is a Certified Approver.
Carrie Coslin, M.P.P., Project Manager
Carrie is currently the Operations Manager and Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator for the USAID-funded One Health Workforce (OHW) Project, a $63.7M international project. She has over 10 years of extensive experience in project management and coordination focusing primarily on research administration. She has worked for several departments and colleges across the university giving her vast insight on the administrative and financial policies and procedures within the University of Minnesota. She holds an MPP from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Brittany Mader, Finance Manager
Brittany Mader is currently the Finance Manager for the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) Consortium research and education portfolio. She has led the fiscal management of over $85M in sponsored funds and external sales, which includes partnerships with domestic and foreign universities, nonprofit organizations, industry partners, and many federal and local government agencies. Her experience is in managing diverse portfolios of funding from a multitude of government agencies, industry stakeholders, and nonprofit organizations and includes experience with a range of funding mechanisms, including grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and external sales.
Kendra McCormack Grahl, M.A., Communications Officer
Kendra McCormack Grahl manages strategic communications and design efforts for the University of Minnesota-led USAID One Health Workforce project that works to strengthen in-country health workforces in Africa and Southeast Asia. Her work focuses on using narratives and information design to translate research into compelling and informative content. Her job not only involves sharing stories about the project but also providing mentorship and training on communications to aspiring storytellers around the world. She holds an M.A. in Strategic Communications from the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Penny Norquist, Project Manager
Penny is a program manager at FPDI, supporting research on biological and chemical agents as well as the development and deployment of technology tools for food systems and preparedness. Penny joined FPDI with over 17 years of R&D experience in the Food & Beverage Industry working across dairy, snacks, and bakery platforms. She received a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University and anticipates graduating in the Summer of 2018 with a Master in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota.
Stephen Streng, Proposal Developer and Editor
Stephen Streng is the Technical Writer and Proposal Developer at the University of Minnesota's Food Protection and Defense Institute and has over twenty years of experience in technical and academic writing and editing and in identifying funding opportunities and successfully developing responsive proposals. In addition, he has organized and facilitated multiple convenings of subject matter experts to accomplish project sponsors’ goals and provides project research support as necessary.