The UpTake Team

 The UpTake Staff, Board of Directors, and Founders

Cirien Saadeh, Executive Director
Cirien Saadeh

Cirien Saadeh

Dr. Cirien Saadeh is a journalist and educator who works at the intersections of journalism, social movements, experiential education, and sustainability. She is an Arab-American, white-passing woman of color who was trained as a community organizer by the former Organizing Apprenticeship Project (now Voices for Racial Justice). She has written for local, national, and international publications and is committed to using journalism as a tool in the pursuit of justice for all historically disenfranchised communities. She is Associate Faculty at Prescott College where she received her PhD in Sustainability Education in 2019. Saadeh also has a Master of Arts in the Humanities with a focus in Justice, Activism, and Solidarity from Prescott College, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from St. Catherine University. As part of her doctoral program, she developed a theory “Journalism of Color,” which asks, in short: how do we develop sustainable journalism platforms and spaces in historically-marginalized communities and how do we create journalism methodologies which build community power and resilience?


Paula Neeley, Freelance Journalist

Paula Neeley has worn various professional hats in her life. Favorites include: arts educator, substance abuse prevention advocate, playwright, stage manager, executive assistant, performer, grants writer. She’s lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Zurich, Switzerland, with brief visits to: Argentina, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, London, Mexico, Sweden, and Uruguay. All of these experiences have shaped her perspective and she draws upon them for her writings. Paula’s hobbies include: being in nature and The Arts.


Tom Elko, Board Chair

Tom Elko is the REAMP Media Center Director at Fresh Energy, a media relations agency that helps Upper Midwest nonprofit groups re-frame public discourse on energy in the hope of achieving an 80 percent reduction of global warming pollution. He was co-founder and director of digital media at, an innovative curated news site, and is a former fellow of the Center for Independent Media and the Knight School of Environmental Journalism’s Great Lakes Journalism Training Institute.

Art Hughes, Board Member

Art Hughes is the broadcast director for the Minnesota start-up He was initially lured to the Twin Cities by Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on public scandals, organic farming, cold-case murders, unreasonable college tuition, manure pits, art installations and everything in between. He came to Minnesota from Seattle where he worked in public radio and learned about coffee, salmon and waterproof, breathable fabric. He is a diligent believer in mission-driven journalism and excellent, independent and ethical work.

Peter Heege, Board Member

Peter worked as the Operations Manager at Llewellyn Publications for 16 years and served as CFO of Consortium Book Sales & Distribution for 17 years. Peter came to UpTake Institute after being the business manager at Intermedia Arts. Married to Nancy Heege-52 years. We met growing up in South Dakota but have been in the Twin Cities since 1965. Peter has two sons, one in The Cities and one in Seattle, and five grandkids, eleven to twenty-two, three boys and two girls.

Michael McIntee, Board Member and Former Executive Director

Michael McIntee co-founded The UpTake in 2007, guided its editorial content until 2018 and produced the award-winning documentary “How Love Won: The Fight for Marriage Equality in Minnesota.” He now serves on The UpTake’s board and is Executive Director for Eagan Television.  He ran All News Channel, a 24-hour TV news network on DirecTV for Hubbard Broadcasting, for 13 years. Before that, he worked in local television news —getting his start at WCCO-TV. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Journalism. He and his long-time partner Laurie Pumper live in Eagan, Minnesota.

Brett Grant, Board Member 

Brett Grant

Brett Grant

Originally from San Francisco, Brett graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science – International Relations. Following graduation, he spent nearly a decade working as an academic outreach coordinator for UCLA and UC Berkeley’s Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) before going back to school to earn a masters and a doctorate degree in education policy from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Brett’s research focuses on holistic education in K-12 schools. He is interested in the education of the whole child and in how students define and practice their own learning. Brett loves to read, write, make music, study languages, travel, swim and ride his bicycle.

Jason Barnett

Jason Barnett Founding Director, Co-Founder, Former Executive Director 

One of the founders of The UpTake, Jason Barnett holds a degree in Fine Arts and was a professional sculptor before he brought his talents as a creative thinker with an interest in news, politics and technology to The UpTake.

Chuck Olsen, Co-Founder

Chuck Olsen is a co-founder of The UpTake, co-founder and CEO of Vid Tiger and the founder of Minnesota Stories, called one of the best video blogs by the New York Times and winner of two Vloggies Awards. He is the producer-director of Blogumentary, a documentary feature film about the rise of political and personal blogs.

Leif Utne, Advisory Board Member
Leif Utne is vice president of business development at Warecorp and Drupal Squad, providing mission-driven businesses, nonprofits and public agencies with high-quality, affordable web development and maintenance services. He lives on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle.
More about Leif Utne

Chris Dykstra, Co-Founder
Chris Dykstra, a co-founder of The UpTake and former chair of the board is a founding partner in Warecorp, a web and software services company that balances traditional web and software engagements against its mission of serving as an incubator for socially conscious technology start-ups and activism.