The UpTake Team

 The UpTake Staff, Board of Directors, and Founders

STAFF
Cirien Saadeh, Executive Director

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, 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?

L Nur, Freelance Journalist

Lolla Nur is a writer/editor, journalist and multidisciplinary creative. As a journalist, her bylines include: Colorlines Magazine, The Nation, Voice of America, Minnesota Public Radio, Pioneer Press, Twin Cities Daily Planet and more. She is an alum of the University of Minnesota — journalism and political science (with focus on international development and Africana studies), and an alum of Georgetown University’s Institute on Political Journalism. 

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.

Afua (Nyia) Harris, Freelance Journalist

Afua (Nyia) Harris is a wife, mother, and a new Brooklyn Park resident and former Roseville resident. She is very involved in her community and believes it is important to create connections to build a stronger network. Nyia was a part of the grassroots non-profit “Do Good Roseville” for several years and hopes to bring the same energy and ideas to Brooklyn Park.

Tená V. Baker, Freelance Journalist

Tená V. Baker is a Howard University alumna and graduate student at Prescott College. Upon receiving a B.S. in Biology, Pre-med she began psychology research at Georgetown University, specifically focusing on culture, emotions, and academic achievement gaps. Simultaneously, she traveled around the world as a flight attendant utilizing her access to study the belief and value systems of other societies. With this compilation of research, experience, and a heart to empower youth beyond societal limitations, Tená began her own philanthropic work through her organization Even Me Empowerment. Over the past few years, she has spoken to marginalized audiences at seminars, conferences, and community events and has most recently published her first empowerment children’s book dedicated to African American boys. Immersed in her purpose, Tená considers herself a social justice activist and change agent for future generations.

Sheila Regan, Freelance Journalist 

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist. You can find her dance writing at the Star Tribune, and other local arts and feature writing, and reporting at places like City Pages, Minnesota Monthly, the Southwest Journal, and the Minnesota Women’s Press. She also has national bylines with the Washington Post, Hyperallergic, Artnet News, Bomb, Salon, ArtForum, and others.

Amy Marschall, Freelance Journalist

Amy Marschall, Psy.D is a licensed clinical psychologist in South Dakota. She grew up in the Twin Cities and obtained her doctorate from the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Her graduate studies focused on trauma-informed psychotherapy, mental health in rural populations, and child and adolescent assessment. In addition to working with individuals and families, Amy does group therapy for children who have a parent in prison, and she volunteers with crisis mental health following natural disasters. When she is not working, Amy enjoys hiking, drawing, and spending time with her two cats.

Latasha Lee, Health Justice Columnist 

Latasha Lee is an advocate for health and wellness with a focus on health education, exercise, and nutrition. She has been in the Twin Cities for 3 years to date. She is a Community faculty nursing instructor for Metropolitan State University, a Critical Care Nurse MSN, RN at Children’s Minneapolis, and now a journalist for The Uptake.  During her short stay she has volunteered on several projects. Currently she serves as a member of the NAACP Behavior Health and Wellness committee, she is one of the 9 founders of the Twin Cities local chapter Black Nurses Rock, and she is also working with the Northside Fresh Coalition. Decreasing the health disparities in the Northside community is high on her agenda.

Jermaine Dickerson, Freelance Journalist 

Jermaine Dickerson was involved in football since he was a kid and had a chance to play college ball at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, MN. He played semi-professionally and some arena level football as well. In 2007 he made a mistake and was incarcerated at the Stillwater Prison where he now reports for The UpTake and is finishing up an Associate of Arts degree in Communications and continuing his studies for a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management. His future plan is to use his communications degree for some type of community based outreach work within North Minneapolis hopefully focusing on young children and preteens. He loves giving back and leading by example. His other ambition is to use his eventual Bachelor’s to start a small business in the food industry. He is considering a food truck that could be eventually turned in a restaurant chain and franchised. He also plans to do motivational speaking and to be published.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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 BringMeTheNews.com, 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.

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.

Lena Jones, Board Member-At-Large

Lena Jones is a political science faculty member at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), where she has been teaching since 2002.  In addition to teaching, she coordinates the Community Development A.S. Degree Program and is active in a variety of civic engagement initiatives on campus. Since 2006, she has been the Program Director of Race in America, Then and Now, a summer field study course of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) that explores past and current civil rights issues. In 2013, Lena was granted a Bush Leadership Fellowship, through which she explored ways to build effective, reciprocal and lasting partnerships between higher education institutions, community organizations and governments.

Paula Neeley, Board Member-At-Large

Paula Neeley is a recent transplant from East Texas, but has made her home in various and sundry places: Fremont, California, Chicago, Illinois, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to name a few with brief-but-recurring stints in Zurich, Switzerland and Helsinki, Finland. At Indiana University-Bloomington, she earned a multi-disciplinary B.A. in Afro-Brazilian Performing Arts which combined her love of the arts, especially theatre (performance, playwriting, technical theatre, and directing) with twin interests in anthropology (folklore, ethnomusicology, and cross-cultural communication) and linguistics (Portuguese, German, and Italian). Despite the industries she’s worked in or the positions she’s held over the years, Paula is an anthropologist at heart, always seeking to educate and enlighten herself about human behavior and human culture.

After three decades as an arts educator, stage manager, and an executive assistant/project coordinator in multiple industries, Paula has settled in the Midwest again with a continued focus on 1) business process improvement and 2) involvement with the arts community. Since her relocation to the Twin Cities, Paula has been actively searching for a Board on which to serve that aligns with her personal goals. She started writing with the Uptake as a freelance journalist and later, was invited to join its Board of Directors to broaden representation of the constituency served.

Rico Morales, Board Member-At-Large 

Rico Morales is a life-long resident of MN and brings generations of community building and Indigenous wisdom to The Uptake. Rico has been growing as a journalist and broadcaster for community radio for more than 15 years. Since moving to the Twin Cities metro area from a rural town in southern MN he has been directly involved in social activism, reporting, and self-improvement. Rico Morales is our Indigenous relative and uses his/him/he pronouns.

Cirien Saadeh, Ex-Officio Board Member

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?

Co-Founders

Jason BarnettJason 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.