The UpTake Team

 The UpTake Staff, Board of Directors, and Founders

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, 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?

L Nur, Freelance Journalist 

L Nur is a writer, journalist and creative storyteller. Her writing focuses on faith and spirituality, arts, culture, and diaspora communities

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, 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.


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.

Kelley Skumautz, Board Member

Kelley Skumautz is a Minneapolis native who has also lived and worked in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, CA. Kelley has 25 years’ experience in the nonprofit, small business, and academic sectors, and is especially skilled in organizational development, integrated planning, fundraising, and community engagement. In professional and volunteer roles, she has worked with the Environmental Defense Center, Environmental Media Association, Heal the Bay, Northside Eco-Harbor, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and TreePeople (just to name a few). She is currently the Managing Director at the Minnesota Sinfonia after closing a zero-waste coffee shop and community café that operated in North Minneapolis from 2016-2019. Kelley is deeply committed to climate resiliency, transparency, inclusivity, and grassroots democracy.

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.