Staff and Core Team

Implementers of the CommNS Strategic Plan on a day-to-day basis.

Mary Beth Collins, J.D., M.A., Executive Director

I have dedicated much of my career and free time to the “third sector,” working as a teacher, attorney, and nonprofit director to advance the strength and well-being of communities, families, and mission-based enterprises. Now, as Executive Director of UW’s Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (CommNS), I harness university and SoHE assets in authentic collaboration with community partners so that together we can promote a better third sector, a better Wisconsin, and a better world. True to my commitment to the Wisconsin Idea, I have also developed and delivered the SoHE Professional Skills Courses as part of the SoHE Applied Master’s program and the Capstone Certificate Program in Community and Nonprofit Leadership, which bring community and practitioner wisdom to the classroom and prepare students for their careers as effective change agents in a complex world.

Amy Hilgendorf, Ph.D, Associate Director

A SoHE alumna, Dr. Hilgendorf completed a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies with a focus on engaged and applied scholarship. Dr. Hilgendorf specializes in community-based research and evaluation partnerships to further social justice and equity, especially related to health and education. She enjoys involving undergraduate and graduate students in projects to support their developing skills in community-based work.

Brian D. McInnes, Faculty Fellow

I principally work in community-based language revitalization, oral history, and educational anthropology. My current research is focused on culture and language revitalization initiatives in northern Wisconsin, holistic program evaluation for Indigenous language immersion schools, and environmental change education (Great Lakes Water Walk movement). My 2017 book, Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow, won both an American Book Award and Fred Landon Award for its portrayal of North America’s most decorated Indigenous soldier from the First World War era. As an enrolled member of the Ojibwe nation and direct descendant of the Wisconsin Potawatomi tribe, I am committed to building opportunities for increased intercultural understanding, collaboration, and critical change.

Cynthia Jasper, Ph.D, Professor and faculty liaison

Professor and faculty liaison
Cynthia Jasper, Vaughan Bascom Professor of Women and Philanthropy, is currently chairing the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies, and is a professor in Consumer Science. Dr. Jasper’s research interests include consumer behavior and management within the retailing settings, women and philanthropy, and succession and management issues in family businesses. She authored a publication entitled, “Women’s Leadership in Philanthropy” for the Encyclopedia of Nonprofit Organizations. In addition, she was elected for the second year to serve as Chair of the University Library Committee, and she continues to serve as Treasurer of the American Council on Consumer Interests.

Michael Maguire, M.S.,  Faculty Associate and undergraduate liaison

When he’s teaching, Michael feels as though he’s living out his purpose in life.  Our students are a significant source of that purpose for him.  Their curiosity, their genuine concern for others, and their sincere commitment to make positive change in the world inspire me!  Our Community Nonprofit Leadership major affords our students and me the opportunity to look at both “big picture” issues that affect our global community, and day to-day challenges that impact individuals and neighborhoods.  We do our best, together, to engage with the world of ideas and the reality of what contributes to healthy community life.  SoHE is the best atmosphere for him to teach what he does and to serve our Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies because it’s one of the places on our campus where big ideas and ‘wicked problems’ collide with creative thinking and our collective search for solutions – every day!

Student Team Members

Leonard Kin-Chong Chao, Co-Create Graduate Research Assistant 

Laura Evans, Graduate Research Assistant

Sophie Herrmann, Operations Undergraduate Assistant

Sophie Morris, Communications Undergraduate Assistant 

Betsy Parker, Special Project Graduate Assistant 

Prerna Rana, Co-Create Graduate Research Assistant

Areli Estrada Rodriguez, Co-Create Graduate Research Assistant

Elizabeth Skora, Co-Create Graduate Research Assistant

Sandie Thao, Co-Create Graduate Research Assistant

Bakari Wallace, Graduate Project Assistant

Kate Wallner, Administrative Undergraduate Intern

Alexandra Wells, Co-Create Research Specialist

Molly Wirz, Communications Graduate Assistant

Garret Zastoupil, Special Projects Graduate Assistant

Student Alumni

Check out what they are up to now!

Jessica Fischer served as our CommNS outreach and administration graduate student lead from 2018 to 2020 and is currently a fellow at Global Giving in Washington, D.C.

Grace Armstrong served as a Co-Create team member from 2018 to 2020 and is currently a medical student at UW-Madison.

Steering Committee

A group that helps the CommNS as a UW-hosted Center

Lori Bakken, Civil Society and Community Studies Professor & Evaluation Specialist
Connie Flanagan, School of Human Ecology Associate Dean
David Liners, WISDOM Director
Salli Martyniak, Forward Community Investments Executive Director
Jonathan Patz, UW Global Health Institute Director
Boyd Rossing, SoHE Professor Emeritus
Ethen Pollard, Civil Society and Community Studies Graduate Student
Matthew Calvert, Youth Development Specialist, UW Extension

Advisory Board

External advisors who help connect the CommNS to stakeholders in Wisconsin and the World while providing counseling on opportunities and trends in the sector.

Bob Sorge, President, Madison Community Foundation; CommNS Planning Group Member; Inaugural Board of Advisors Chair
Diane Ballweg, President, Endres Manufacturing Company Foundation and Board Member of various area nonprofit and philanthropic organizations; teacher and pilot
Julie Bauer, Executive Director, Alliant Energy Foundation
Steve Goldberg, Owner, Steve Goldberg Consulting, LLC; Board Chair, Wisconsin Philanthropy Network
Jen Hannon, Shareholder, Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.; member of Estate Planning, Estate and Trust Administration Practice Group
Eugenia Podesta, Director, Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship, Vital Voices Global Partnership; Co-Owner, Synergy Co-Working
Noah Salata – American Family Insurance, Community Investment Consultant
Mark Schar, Senior Researcher and Lecturer, Stanford University; Managing Director, One Page Solutions
Tony Shields, President and CEO, Wisconsin Philanthropy Network
Stephanie Schlecht – Executive Director, Schlecht Family Foundation
Sarah Wendt – Greater New York City Area Nonprofit Consultant
Jeanan Yasiri Moe – Director of Strategic Communications, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; Board Chair, Give Back Foundation


Collaborators, friends, experts, scholars, and practitioners whose work connects with the CommNS and whose work we strive to lift up!

Erin Peot
Kasey Keeler
Boyd Rossing
EG Nadeau
Alice Pauser
Dani Rischall
Paul Mross
Laurel Lunde
Karen Reece
Molly Tomony
Jason Kauffeld
Mary Gasiorowics
Troy Washington
Abby Pansch
Ginny Hughes
Angela Rose Black
Robert Mayer
Mary Crave
Michelle Kwasny
Elizabeth O’Callahan
Geoffrey Swain
Cynthia Burnson
Elizabeth Harris
Stephanie Harrison