Board of Directors

Board of Directors

As a nonprofit organization, Xperitas is governed by a Board of Directors. Learn about our current board members below.

The Xperitas Board has Board member openings and is seeking qualified applicants who reflect the organization’s values of deep respect for cultures, diversity, and learning. Learn how to apply here.

Leah Brink

Leah earned a BA in International Studies from the University of Iowa and an MA in Comparative and International Development Education from the University of Minnesota (U of M). She currently works at the U of M as a Director in the Global Opportunities (GO) Minnesota program which provides non-degree programs for short-term international students.

David Ernst

David is currently the Chief Information Officer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. He holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies, as well as a M.S. in Education and a B.S. in Physical Science. He has traveled internationally, most recently to Nepal, Tanzania, Japan, China, Thailand and Peru.

Madeline Graham

Madeline is a graduate of Macalester College where she minored in German studies. After college she moved to Austria for a year to continue improving her German. She has worked in communications at a number of Twin Cities nonprofits and recently launched her own web development business, Significant Digits, and is excited to offer her valuable technical skills to Xperitas.

Elizabeth Kelly

Elizabeth earned dual bachelor degrees – B.A. in German and B.S.B in Finance and International Business – from the University of Minnesota. She has lived and worked in Berlin, Germany, as a Finance Manager and has also spent significant time in Austria and Denmark. She enjoys sharing her experiences and creating cross-cultural immersion opportunities for others.

John Mattes

John recently retired after more than thirty years as a business executive holding leadership positions in the areas of strategy and corporate development at Taylor Corp., Liberty Enterprises, Matrix Financial and First Bank Systems. He comes to Xperitas with significant nonprofit experience as well, having held leadership positions on the boards of Lutheran Social Services, Simpson Housing, Temple Israel and the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir. John is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.

José Schimming

José is Vice-President of Mortgage Insurance Relations at Wells Fargo and attended Yale University and the University of Minnesota Law School. He is passionate about traveling, improving cross-cultural understanding and community involvement. José has been involved with various community organizations, including United Way, Centro Legal, La Escuelita and Early Resource and Training Center.

Mandy Spiess

Mandy brings over 20 years of leadership and management experience in leading corporate and nonprofit organizations. She earned her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Management at Denver’s Regis University and a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota. Mandy attended the US Army Aviation Center and is a Lean/Six Sigma Black Belt and Certified Business Architect. 

Patricia Thornton

Patricia holds a B.A. degree summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a double major in Japanese and East Asian History, and an M.A. from the University of St. Thomas in teaching. She is a past director of Concordia Language Villages and still serves as a mentor to programs there. 

Carolyn Vanous

Carolyn is a graduate of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and currently works for 3M Company as a Global Sourcing Manager. She recently returned from a two-and-a-half-year stint working in Singapore for 3M and found that her experiences working in Asia helped ignite her interest in intercultural learning and global connection.

Scott Vargo

Scott earned an undergraduate degree from Macalester College and a Master’s degree in Public Policy and a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Humphrey School. He currently works at Hennepin County in workforce development where he is creating systems to track, measure and evaluate new collaborations between Hennepin Co. and the University of Minnesota.

Diana Yefanova

Diana earned her Ph.D. in Comparative International Development Education from the University of Minnesota and is now working with the Association for Orientation, Transition and Retention in Higher Education. She has worked as a study abroad adviser, researcher, instructor and international student specialist in the U.S. and Japan and speaks Russian and German.