Who We Are

Our Board of Directors

Communities Engaging Autism is governed by a volunteer board of directors that is dedicated to a family and child-centered approach to autism. We are all personally impacted by autism and that relationship fuels our passion for helping families.

Get to know us and you’ll see why we are uniquely positioned to provide these essential services. Want to be part of this amazing nonprofit? We are currently seeking additional board members. Please contact our executive director.

President: Mary Powell
Mary was Executive Director of the Autism Society of Minnesota for 18 years, where she developed many programs serving individuals and families. These programs included the information and referral service, the parent education “Discovery Series” program, the state autism conference, and the annual Autism Symposium for special educators.  She was also involved in public policy initiatives such as the autism license for teachers. As an advocate for her child with autism, Mary founded Camp Hand in Hand and served on the Autism Society of Minnesota’s board of directors. She also served as a board member of the Ramsey County Citizen Advisory Committee, the Metropolitan Council Developmental Disabilities Committee, District 916 Special Education Advisory Committee, and Outcomes, Inc. She is especially interested in promoting the role of community non-profits to improve the lives of individuals and families. Through Communities Engaging Autism Mary hopes to ensure better outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder through effective intervention and parent education.

Vice President: Mary Bergaas
Mary is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, the research arm of Hennepin County Medical Center.  She has spent her professional life as a research administrator and non-profit executive.  She holds a BA in Music History and Psychology from St. Olaf College. Mary has had a long-standing interest in community volunteerism and has been a member of the Junior League of New Haven, Conn., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Minneapolis, Minn.  She currently serves on the boards of the Hennepin Health Foundation and the Association for Nonsmokers – Minnesota.

Treasurer:  Joan Schoepke

Joan SchoepkeJoan has a wealth of professional and personal experience advocating for persons on the autism spectrum. Her educational background is in English and education. She earned her Masters Degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and taught English, Journalism, Speech, and Special Education in the Sheboygan and Thiensville-Mequon, Wisconsin public school districts. She is a personal advocate for her adult son who is on the spectrum and has worked at Pacer Center, the Autism Society of Minnesota, and the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation. She has also served as a member of advisory councils for the Bloomington and Minneapolis public schools and on several committees and boards for organizations such as the Autism Society of Minnesota, Gillette Children’s Hospital, REM and Outcomes, Inc.

Secretary: Katrina Kramlich
Katrina KramlichKatrina is a Family Coach and an Autism Developmental Play Consultant. She has been working with children with autism for over 15 years in a variety of roles within schools, centers, non-profits and in families’ homes. Katrina enjoys learning from and growing with her own family members on the spectrum. After getting a degree in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota, Katrina completed an apprenticeship program at the Autism Treatment Center of America in Sheffield, MA. She currently has her own private practice, Inspired Spectrums, where she coaches families in play programs. Katrina believes that parents are their children’s best resource and wants to empower parents to feel confident in supporting and inspiring their children’s growth. Katrina has been serving on the board for nearly two years now, contributing to our Lecture Series and family offerings.

Amy Wink, MA SLP
Amy WinkAmy has devoted her career to serving young children and their families. She worked as a pediatric speech-language pathologist for non-profit organizations in Illinois and Minnesota where she gained experience evaluating, treating, and supporting young children and their families affected by autism. Amy had the joy of watching children and families thrive when provided support, education, and opportunities for connection. Amy’s love of this work led her to the school setting, where she currently works as the ECSE Autism Resource Specialist for St. Louis Park Schools. Amy has been co-facilitating CEA’s mindfulness-based stress reduction courses.

Katie Plunkett, MA, SLP
Katie has worked as a speech-language pathologist for the Minneapolis Public Schools Early Childhood Special Education program for the past 22 years. She was excited to collaborate with an ECSE teacher 20 years ago to begin the first preschool class specifically for students with autism. Since then, her role has evolved to include Autism Resource Specialist, Early Childhood Autism Lead, and interventionist providing home-based service and consultation in community preschools and daycares, teaching social-communication classes. She knows the value of seeing a child as a member of both a family and a class and collaborates with the adults in the child’s life to promote understanding and success across settings.  Katie appreciates the gifts and talents that all students have and feels strongly that it is possible to create positive learning experiences for students with a range of learning needs.

Executive Director: Beth Dierker, PhD
Beth DierkerIt can’t hurt to get some information,” was the thought that began Beth’s autism journey with her two-year-old son. The immense challenge of those years prompted Beth to balance information with intuition in order to stay well for and with her family. Also at that time, Beth was a graduate student immersed in research and practice of education and training, evaluation, youth development, and community engagement. Later as a writer, consultant, learner, teacher, and advocate, Beth began to recognize connections between her professional and personal experiences. Beth encourages families of differently wired children to honor each member’s differences, foster self-awareness, develop strengths, and support one another in creative and authentic ways. Beth navigates her community life with a vision for meaningful inclusion for people with disabilities and enjoys building relationships and partnerships to that end.

Our Staff

Communications Director: Shannon Andreson, MA
Shannon AndresonShannon has enjoyed a career as an advocate for special needs families, using her skills in program development and communications to elevate local nonprofits, build community relationships, and leverage connections into action for Minnesota families. She has worked specifically for nonprofits serving families autism and special needs since her son was diagnosed 14 years ago. She currently serves her community through various nonprofit boards and as the Clerk for Hopkins Public Schools School Board. She continues to use her personal and public experiences to fuel her passion for community building. It is through these connections that we create a truly inclusive world that supports all of us.

Oxygen Mask Podcast Co-Host: Tara Girarden
Tera has worn a lot of hats over her career including photographer, author, marketing creative, and autism advocate. These roles all converged when Tera photographed, wrote and self-published “Faces of Autism” in 2017. Her book’s mission has been to allow the light of those with autism to shine bright. Tera was a LEND Fellow at the University of Minnesota in 2018-19 where she expanded her advocacy role and partnered with CEA to create and co-host The Oxygen Mask Podcast. Tera has three sons in their teens and early 20s with her youngest being the inspiration for her book. When she’s not busy with their activities, she enjoys reading, being on the lake, or taking leisurely hikes through the many parks Minnesota has to offer.

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