Since 2009, Girl Scouts River Valleys has annually honored local role models whose professional accomplishments, leadership and community contributions inspire girls to reach their highest potential.
Susan S. Grafton is Senior Vice President, Chief Accounting Officer, Controller of Best Buy Co Inc. She previously served as the companies Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer, Vice President – Financial Operations and Controller, and Vice President – Finance, Planning and Performance Management.
Prior to joining the company in 2000, she worked in finance and accounting at The Pillsbury Company and Pitney Bowes, Inc. Grafton is a member of the Financial Executives International’s Committee on Corporate Reporting and chairs the Finance Leaders Council for the Retail Industry Leaders Association. She also serves on the board of Perspectives, Inc. and is a member of Soroptimist International. In 2010, she was named one of the Top Women in Finance in the Twin Cities by Finance & Commerce magazine. Grafton received an MBA from the University of Minnesota.
Grafton believes leadership comes from all levels of an organization, which she observes regularly through her executive role and working with Best Buy’s Employee Business Networks. As executive sponsor for the inter-generational employee group (iGen) and through work supporting the Women’s Leadership Forum, WOLF, she has the opportunity to interact with employees at all levels of the organization. Grafton leads the Reciprocal Mentoring initiative that pairs established leaders in the company with emerging leaders, with the goal for participants to benefit mutually from leadership interaction. To her, the most rewarding part of her job is leading individuals and instilling confidence in them to become effective leaders themselves.
Grafton’s childhood experience in Girl Scouts was particularly meaningful, as her mother was a Girl Scout troop leader who balanced volunteer commitments with a career. She participated in camping, badge earning and troop-designed service projects. Girl Scouting taught her many life skills and instilled the belief she has carried on throughout her career—have the confidence in yourself to achieve your dreams and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Sharonne Hayes, M.D.
Dr. Sharonne Hayes founded and maintains her clinical practice at the Women’s Heart Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, actively promoting women’s cardiovascular health issues at the national, local and institutional levels. When Dr. Hayes began working at Mayo Clinic, she became keenly aware that women in medicine, and particularly in cardiology, were still a minority.
In order to address the unique needs of women suffering from or at risk for cardiovascular disease, in 1998 Dr. Hayes founded one of the first practices focusing on women’s cardiovascular concerns. The clinic provides sex-and gender-based cardiovascular care and women-focused research with a goal to improve clinical outcomes and advance the science. As a pioneer in the women’s health field, she is a nationally recognized educator and advocate for women’s cardiovascular issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
Dr. Hayes received her medical degree from Northwestern University in Chicago and completed fellowships in internal medicine, cardiovascular research and cardiovascular diseases at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota. She is currently Associate Professor of Medicine and Cardiology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a Fellow of the American Heart Association.
Dr. Hayes has been a Girl Scout for as long as she can remember and credits her mother for her positive experience in scouting. She believes in the power of the Girl Scout sisterhood and knows all girls have the potential to be leaders who can make the world a better place through service.
As Vice President and General Manager of the half-billion Gastro/Urology Therapies business for the Neuromodulation Division of Medtronic, Inc., Cindy Kent is the first African American woman to run a profit and loss commercial operation for the company. Before joining Medtronic in 2007, Kent worked for Eli Lilly and Company for 15 years in various functions including manufacturing, human resources, sales and marketing.
Kent has been featured in several regional, national and international publications throughout her career. Cindy is a 2007 German Marshall Fellow and a member of the 2013 Class of Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute. In 2011, she was honored with the “Diversity in Business” award by the Twin Cities Business Journal, who also recognized her in 2008 as a “Top 40 under Forty.” Kent leads the Medtronic Women’s Network Leadership Committee—specifically tasked with the development and advancement of senior level women across the globe. She is a member of the Women Business Leaders of the US Healthcare Industry, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, The Links as well as the Executive Leadership Council.
Kent holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing as well as a Master of Divinity degree in Pastoral Care and Leadership, both from Vanderbilt University. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern University.
Having benefited from mentoring herself, Kent became a Girl Scout in her early twenties in order to guide girls who were interested in technical career fields; she later served as a River Valleys board member. The Girl Scout mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place resonates deeply with her, and she hopes to provide a positive example for the next generation.
Sarena Lin is Corporate Vice President for Strategy and Business Development at Cargill, Inc., leading a group of professionals who specialize in global strategy consulting and merger and acquisition support to foster the growth of Cargill’s businesses. In addition, she works closely with senior management on a broad range of corporate-level strategic initiatives. She also is the executive sponsor for Cargill’s Women’s Network and a member of Cargill’s Diversity Council.
Prior to joining Cargill, Inc., Lin was a principal at McKinsey & Company in New York, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. She currently serves on the boards of Perspectives, Inc., a nonprofit supportive housing program in Minneapolis, and the Children’s Theatre Company. Lin holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Strategy from the Yale University School of Management, a Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Yale University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Harvard University.
For Lin, leadership is something that can be both learned and taught. In eighth grade, Lin moved from Taiwan to the United States, which proved to be a turning point in her life. Through years of support from her mentors and her own courage, she developed as a leader who would eventually run the entire Taiwan office for McKinsey & Company. It’s Lin’s wish that every girl creates a plan for herself and perseveres to achieve her goals and dreams, because with focus and effort, anything is possible. For Lin herself, it’s the journey that keeps her motivated and pushing forward; she has no plans to stop challenging herself along the way.
As Manager, Social Responsibility at The Mosaic Company and Manager, The Mosaic Company Foundation, Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas integrates global philanthropy into corporate social responsibility strategies. She works with international teams on food, water, and local community investments while developing nonprofit partnerships globally.
Niedfeldt-Thomas has provided executive leadership to international, national, state and local organizations and companies, spanning agriculture, sustainability, environment, health, energy, financial services, clean technology, education and social services for over 18 years. She was awarded a Bush Leadership Fellowship from the Archibald Bush Foundation, served as president of two nonprofit organizations, was a finalist for CFO of the Year—Nonprofit with Minneapolis/Saint Paul Business Journal and led several public-private partnership initiatives.
She holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota, where she also serves as adjunct faculty. She received a Bachelor’s degree from The American University in Washington, DC with a double major in Statistics and International Studies, concentrating on International Development.
Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Niedfeldt-Thomas joined the Riverland Girl Scout Council as a Brownie and earned a Girl Scout Gold Award with a project focused on global hunger. Her passion for scouting has carried into her adult life, from serving as a leader for an inner city Brownie troop in Rhode Island, to sharing her love of scouting with her two sons.
Sabra Otteson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Journal-Chronicle Company (J-C Press), a commercial printing company founded in 1859 in Owatonna, Minnesota. Taking over sole ownership in 1983, Otteson is the third generation in her family to run the oldest operating company in Steele County. Otteson is a trustee with the Owatonna Foundation and a past Advisory Board Member of Wells Fargo Bank. She has also served as a member and past president/chair with the Owatonna Rotary Club and United Way of Steele County.
Despite initial skepticism from her male counterparts, she became a member and eventually board president of Printing Industry Midwest. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Rollins College, in Winter Park, Florida.
To be a good leader, Otteson prefers to work alongside individuals in order to provide support and encouragement. It’s also important for her to know that her employees enjoy what they’re doing. She strives to bring out other people’s strengths, as she believes the combined dynamics of a group are what ultimately create success.
Otteson grew up as a Girl Scout, was active for 10 years of her childhood and even led a troop of junior high girls before she had children. Her mother, a strong female role model, was her troop leader and the president of the River Trails legacy council. It was Otteson’s mother who instilled in her a sense of confidence and leadership, and she sees being a Women of Distinction Honoree as a testament to her mother’s leadership and guidance.
Honorable M. Jacqueline Regis
Honorable M. Jacqueline Regis is the District Court Judge in Hennepin County on a three-year assignment with the Family Court. In her position she feels a tremendous sense of responsibility to support and enhance the family experience.
Previously she served as Senior Associate General Counsel at UnitedHealth Group, Inc., a member of St. Paul Travelers’ Insurance Companies’ Legal Services Department and as Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General. She was the president of Minnesota Women Lawyers and in 2010 co-chaired the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. She is currently a board member of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights. Judge Regis earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Principia College and Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School.
In addition to her diverse legal career, Judge Regis has dedicated a majority of her life to mentoring young women and encouraging them to seek fulfilling and meaningful lives. As a leader, she strives to be true to her sense of right and wrong, and acts with compassion for others. With a life based on principle and integrity, she believes a woman can do anything she sets her mind to. Judge Regis’ recommendation for success is to never give up on a dream—life may change direction, but goals can always be achieved.
Judge Regis previously served on a board committee for the Girl Scouts of Greater Minneapolis. Growing up in a small Haitian town, Judge Regis was part of a local Girl Scout troop. She was proud to wear her uniform and participate in important activities that taught her about integrity and compassion, which she now shares with her two Girl Scout daughters.
Lee Roper-Batker is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Under her leadership, the Women’s Foundation has doubled its endowment and annual grantmaking and established the girlsBEST Fund, a grantmaking and public awareness program to build future economic well-being for girls ages 10-18. Through this fund, the Women’s Foundation supports Girl Scouts ConnectZ, a program that provides access to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to underrepresented girls and creates a supportive environment where they can thrive.
Prior to joining the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Roper-Batker owned a strategic fundraising and communications firm for seven years, which raised more than $20 million dollars for nonprofits across the country. She currently serves on the board of the Women’s Funding Network, a consortium of more than 160 women’s funds from six continents that invest in women-led solutions to the most pressing social issues around the globe. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Augsburg College and received a diploma from the Higher Trade Union College in Moscow, where she studied Trade Union Movements.
Roper-Batker first experienced the support of a strong sisterhood in her Girl Scout troop. Together, they felt a sense of empowerment and voice, which eventually led them to take action on a local environmental concern. Now, Roper-Batker believes any girl has the capacity to make change in the world, and Girl Scouts helps girls do this by creating a sense of agency and activism. To her, it all starts by finding one’s voice and then using it to be an advocate for what you believe in.