Posted: June 28, 2006

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Thirteen community leaders have been appointed to the newly formed Community Action Diversity Council of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

The group, which met recently for the first time, is charged with providing advice and counsel on the diversity aspects of the system's new four-year strategic plan.

"This council represents an impressive array of business professionals, community leaders and educators who will greatly enhance our diversity efforts," said Chancellor James H. McCormick.

"Although we have 26,000 students of color - more than any other higher education system in the state - too many young people and adults from historically underserved and underrepresented groups still do not have access to and achieve success in higher education," McCormick said. "We simply must redouble our efforts to provide opportunities so all citizens can fulfill their potential. It is the right thing to do for our citizens, and it is the smart thing to do for the state's economic vitality. I have no doubt this council will provide invaluable insights and guidance."

The diversity plan calls for the colleges and universities to enroll and graduate more students from these populations and to increase the number of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities faculty, staff and administrators from underrepresented groups.

The members are: Bescye Burnett, Zimmerman, pastor of Blessed Cross Church; Colette Campbell Stuart, Falcon Heights, founder and principal of Textures Consulting; George Himango, Duluth, desegregation officer for the Duluth public schools; Heladio Zavala, St. Cloud, senior management analyst for United Migrant Opportunity Services; Jesse Bethke Gomez, St. Paul, president of Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio; Kao Ly Ilean Her, St. Paul, executive director of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans; Karina Higareda, Coon Rapids, business development coordinator for the Anoka Hennepin Credit Union; Maria Skora, Eagan, training manager for Lloyd's Barbecue; Mary Al Balber, St. Paul, an attorney with the City of Minneapolis; Mary Gorfine, Rochester, coordinator of the Olmstead County Youth Program; Mary T. Howard, St. Cloud, a psychologist with the St. Cloud Veterans Affairs Medical Center; Ra???l V???zquez, Willmar, retention coordinator and health outreach worker for the West Central Integration Collaborative; and Readus Fletcher, St. Paul, director of economic opportunity, Minority Business Development and Retention for the City of St. Paul.

The members were chosen because they have shown an interest in educational access and opportunity for all Minnesotans. The council is expected to meet quarterly.