Metro Region Fall Conference

Wednesday, October 5, 2022
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Participant information

CEUs: Attendees can earn up to 6 live CEUs, plus one Bonus On-demand CEU, for a total of 7 CEUs
Pricing: Free for members | $35 for nonmembers
Other details:
  • All sessions will be recorded and made available to registrants after the conference.

MSSA’s Metro Region Chapter recognizes that their fall conference coincides with Yom Kippur, the most significant day of the year for Jewish people. It is important to us that all people have access to our programs, and we recognize that this scheduling oversight resulted in exclusion, which greatly conflicts with our values. To remove barriers to participation, all MSSA members will be able to access the event recording for free, to view on their own schedule. To prevent conflicts like this from happening again in the future, we are implementing new scheduling practices. We apologize for any harm we have caused.

Registration for the live virtual event is also now free.

Registration is now closed.  

Sponsor information

Sponsoring MSSA's Metro Region Fall Conference is a unique opportunity for your organization to connect with health and human service professionals, including social workers, child and adult protection workers, mental health professionals, case managers, county and MN DHS staff, and others.


8:00 am  Welcome 
8:15 - 9:15 am  Enhancing Wellbeing Through Mindfulness 
  Mariann Johnson
  Mindfulness is a tool for enhancing personal well-being. Practicing mindfulness can broaden our perspective and regulate the stress response, allowing us to deal with life's inevitable challenges more resourcefully and compassionately. Participants will be guided through an experiential mindfulness meditation and leave the session with practical tips for practicing mindfulness in their daily lives, at work, and at home.
9:15 - 9:30 am  Break 
9:30 - 10:30 am  HousingLaw 101
  Mary Kaczorek
  Learn more about housing law in Minnesota, including recent changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic and eviction moratorium.
10:30 - 10:45 am  Break 
10:45 - 11:45 am  Hmong Disability Justice
  Mai Thor 
  Centering disability justice in the work we do is critical to achieve liberation and freedom for all oppressed people. Ableism, the oppression of people with disabilities, is prevalent and deeply rooted in all Minnesota institutions and systems. At its core, disability justice is the work of intersectionality; recognizing that not only can people identify as disabled, but they also have many other identities, including race and ethnicity. For the Hmong community, disability is a difficult and challenging topic. The Hmong culture has its own unique perspective on disability, however much of this perpetuates ableism. The information presented will provide a basic overview of disability justice through a Hmong cultural lens and also practical ways to commit to being anti-ableist.
11:45 am - 12:30 pm  Lunch break 
12:30 - 1:30 pm  Islamic Faith and Wellbeing and Our Healthcare Systems
  Imam Sharif Mohamed and Dr. Michael Van Keulen
  Imam Sharif Mohamed and Dr. Michael Van Keulen, co-founders of Open Path Resources, have been working together for over 20 years, exploring how to rethink and reshape the relationships between the Muslim immigrant communities in Minnesota and our regions' public systems (healthcare, education, government programs, etc.). In this presentation, we will focus on the relationship between public healthcare systems and our diverse Muslim communities.
130 - 1:45 pm  Break 
1:45 - 2:45 pm  Roadmap to Self-Preservation
  Mae Brooks, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation
  This session will address burnout and offer solutions to the problem at both the individual and systemic levels. We will use a case study to examine best practices to address employee burnout.
2:45 - 3:00 pm  Break 
3:00 - 4:00 pm  Understanding the Difference Between DEIA: Acronym to Action
  Donte Curtis
  We often use the acronym DEIA to talk about all the work around inclusion and equity. In this session, we will break down this acronym and get clear about actions you can take both personally and professionally in all four areas. Come ready to engage in this highly interactive session!
Bonus On-Demand  Intersection of Race and Disability 
  Alicia Munson and Brittanie Wilson 
  Racism and ableism are often thought of as separate systems of oppression, but rather, they are deeply intertwined. People living at the intersection of race and disability experience significant barriers and discrimination, with white supremacy and ableism as part of the foundation of our country. In this session, representatives from the Minnesota Council on Disability and The Arc Minnesota will share a primer on ableism, racism, and intersectionality, as well as the disability justice movement toward anti-racism and anti-ableism. Working toward liberation of all people – especially those who have disabilities – is only possible when we honor the full lived experience of those with intersecting identities.  

Speaker Information

Mariann Johnson is a well-being and mindfulness instructor for the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing. She has studied and practiced mindfulness meditation for over 25 years and is a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor through Brown University’s Mindfulness Center. Before dedicating her professional life to teaching mindfulness, Mariann served as an organization development consultant and mediator, working with leaders of Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Her writings on mindful leadership have appeared in the Huffington Post and Mindful Magazine.

Mary Kaczorek
has practiced housing law with Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid in Minneapolis since 2018. Mary previously supervised Legal Services State Support, a statewide project of the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, working to expand access to civil justice for all Minnesotans. She has also served as an unemployment law judge with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. 

Mai Thor
is a 2021 Bush Fellow who seeks to develop a community-informed disability justice framework to incorporate social justice work and systems throughout Minnesota. As a person living with a disability and as a leader who has helped design more accessible and inclusive systems for people with disabilities, she sees that social justice movements often leave disability out of their efforts. Mai has a Master’s in Nonprofit and Public Administration from Metropolitan State University and a Bachelor of Arts from Augsburg University. She lives in the Twin Cities east metro and has two boys and a cat.

Imam Sharif Mohamed,Imam and Co-Founder, Open Path Resources, grew up in Somalia and immigrated to the United States in 1996. In 1998, he cofounded the first Mosque to be opened by the Somali community in Minnesota. Imam Sharif founded Open Path Resources (OPR) 10 years ago. Through OPR, he became Minnesota’s first Muslim Interfaith Chaplain, helping to meet the needs of patients and their families while they face some of the most complex moments in their lives. His research exploring the role of faith in improving public health issues such as vaccination, preventative medicine, and other public health issues has been published in several medical journals. In all of his work, Imam Sharif strives to uplift the message that Islamic faith principles and the principles of a just democracy do align. 

Dr. Michael Van Keulen, Ph.D., Executive Director and Co-Founder, Open Path Resources, has 11 years of experience leading community-based research efforts and developing programming that focuses on relationship building. He has worked within the East African communities of Minnesota for over 20 years. He also has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, administrator, board members, and founder of several schools. He served as a Hubert H. Humphrey Policy Fellow 2013-2014 within the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He was also named a Fellow for the University of Chicago School of Medicine’s initiative researching Islam and Medicine in public policies, 2017-2019. 

Mae Brooks is a human resources leader with 20 plus years in human resources operations and racial equity work. She has worked in the private, public, non-profit, and government sectors. Her expertise in operations and talent performance allows her to conceptualize change strategies for existing service offerings. With a holistic understanding of business challenges, drawing upon a combination of winning experiences as, director of human resources, talent acquisition manager, diversity recruiter, director of workforce diversity, her goal is to make sure human resources is seen as essential to business operations.
Donte Curtis 
is the Owner/Lead Consultant of Catch Your Dream Consulting where he keynotes, consults with, and trains individuals, teams, and organizations nationwide. His expertise includes leadership development, racial equity, inclusion, and inspiring practical change. Donte currently serves on the Board of Directors at Social Enterprise Alliance Twin Cities and Youthprise, where he is a co-chair of the program investment committee. With over 12 years of facilitation and speaking experience, Donte is skilled at fostering the collective wisdom in the room and engaging audiences in multiple ways. Donte lives a life that is dedicated to leadership, social justice and liberation.

Brittanie Wilson was born with Arthrogryposis and uses an electric wheelchair to navigate the world. Brittanie is the Communications Officer for the Minnesota Council on Disability. Recently, she took part in a self-advocacy course for people with disabilities called Partners in Policymaking, which propelled her passion for advancing the rights of people with disabilities. Brittanie has been appointed to the Task Force for Eliminating Subminimum Wage and serves on the Governor's Council for Developmental Disabilities, The Arc Minnesota Board of Directors, and the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities as Co-Chair of their Anti-Discrimination & Intersectionality Committee. As a homecare recipient, Brittanie is a part of a leadership group for SEIU Homecare MN, where she advocates for better wages for PCAs. 

Alicia Munson has been working alongside and on behalf of Minnesotans who have disabilities for more than a decade. In starting her career as a Direct Support Professional, Alicia’s work and allyship was informed by her personal experience as the family member of a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities. During her time as Public Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota, Alicia earned the respect and trust of community members statewide through her grassroots and lobbying efforts. Now as Chief Program Officer for The Arc Minnesota, Alicia’s work focuses on shifting programs and services internally, as well as systems and society externally, to align with the disability justice movement. She serves as Board Co-Chair for the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. 


Thank You Sponsors!