Girl Scouts River Valleys is proud to honor these five women for their leadership, professional accomplishments and community contributions.
Charlene Altman is a leader in the financial sector, serving as the Managing Director of Client Advisory at Ascent Private Capital Management of U.S. Bank. She brings over 27 years of financial services experience to her role and strives to empower her clients to see the positive things their wealth can accomplish.
As the primary point of contact she offers comprehensive wealth management strategies, consults on stewardship opportunities and partners with families to help them maximize the impact of their wealth for generations to come.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College, Charlene earned her bachelor’s degree in finance and economics and holds an MBA in finance from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. But for Altman, her work isn’t all about numbers.
Her investment in community impact shines through her service as a past board member and chair of the YWCA of Minneapolis finance and audit committee and through her continued work with the board and committees of the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Most recently through her support of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, she has invested greatly in the Minnesota Girls are Not for Sale campaign to end the human trafficking of minors in Minnesota.
Altman believes in the power of women and girls supporting one another. She emphasizes the impact that mentoring has had in her own career. “I’ve been so blessed during my career,” Altman said. “Mentoring is one of the ways I give back. I’ve always tried to bring out the best in young women, especially those just starting their careers to play up their strengths and encourage them to find something that really challenges them.”
Altman joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie, recalling her experience as amazing exposure to new people, perspectives, and opportunities she may not have otherwise had. Girl Scouts bolstered her competitive spirit through earning badges and selling cookies—with her favorite story being how she creatively sold Girl Scout cookies to a bakery. Her best advice for girls is to try things without fear of failure. She encourages girls to work hard at math and science, whether or not they plan to build those skills into a STEM career. Through the power of education, she believes that girls can create their own opportunities and choose where they want to go.
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Dr. MayKao Hang
Dr. MayKao Hang is a strategic leader in the Minnesota non-profit community and is committed to achieving an equitable society where everyone can prosper, especially girls and those who lack access to opportunities. She serves as the President and CEO of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving lives in St. Paul and beyond through direct services, research, and community building.
Since taking her role in 2007, Dr. Hang has provided guidance and leadership for new programs, including establishing the first children’s mental health program for Hmong girls in the St. Paul Public Schools, generating support for older adults and their caregivers, and helping to start the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood Initiative, dedicated to helping low income children achieve school success from birth to career.
Her current CEO role is the culmination of extensive work in the nonprofit and public sectors, working in service to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in our community.
Dr. Hang earned her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Brown University, a Master of Arts in Social Policy and Distributive Justice from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and a doctorate in Public Administration from Hamline University.
She has been recognized with numerous awards including the Community Champion 40 & Forward Award, the Humphrey Public Leadership Award, the Ann Bancroft Award, the Ultimate Hmong Woman Award, and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans Leadership Award. Dr. Hang serves as the Board Chair of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank and a Trustee and Chair of the Community Impact Committee of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, and as an Advisory Committee member of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Dr. Hang is a naturalized citizen and a first generation Hmong-American. She is familiar with the lack of clarity in career paths and mentorship for women. Recognizing this, she co-founded Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together and is also a founding member of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) in Minnesota, where she currently serves as Chair of the Advisory Board.
Dr. Hang advocates for investing in girls, encouraging them to dream big and pursue key leadership positions. Just as Girl Scouts works to empower girls on an often unequal playing field, Dr. Hang encourages girls to win by changing the rules of the game. She shares, “To do that, you have to go to school, work hard, and invest in yourself as the chief architect of your life. No one gets to define yourself but you.”
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Karen L. Himle
Karen L. Himle is a dynamic leader with a passion for challenging work at the intersection of private industry and public service. She is a seasoned senior executive at Thrivent Financial, seeing her current role as the culmination of her experiences in the insurance industry, higher education, health care, and state government.
She is currently forging a new path at Thrivent, building the organization’s first fully integrated Corporate Affairs function. A significant part of that work is dedicated to building a brand that extends the mission of serving Christians across the U.S. to spend wisely and live generously. As a membership organization, Thrivent Financial supports nearly 2.4 million members nationwide, contributing over $200 million in 2015 to communities across the United States.
Prior to her current role at Thrivent, Himle served as the Vice President of University Relations for the University of Minnesota, a position she held from 2007 to 2011. Karen also served as the Executive Vice President of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, and President of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics Foundation, the fundraising arm of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, after having served on the Board of Directors for the hospital. Previously she rose through the ranks of the St. Paul Companies (now Travelers) to serve as the Senior Vice President for Corporate and Government Affairs.
Himle earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also holds a JD from Nebraska-Lincoln, and is currently completing a Master of Arts in theology and ethics at Luther Seminary.
As a mission-driven leader, community involvement is at the heart of Himle’s professional and personal path. Active in her church and community since childhood, she has served on a lengthy list of boards and commissions including serving as the first female president of the Minneapolis Club. Karen currently serves as a Vice Chair of the Minnesota Orchestral Association and on the boards of the University of Nebraska Foundation and Bolder Options.
Himle was a Brownie troop leader for four years, proudly leading troops for each of her daughters. She sees Girl Scouts as a unique experience for each individual girl, providing confidence and happiness in sharing their experiences together—whether that is a craft project, building skill in sales, a song, or an overnight. Girl Scouts taught her to be a good leader and a good follower, both of which she has utilized throughout her vibrant career.
She believes that the shared opportunity, activity, and problem solving experiences offered by Girl Scouts helps to shape skills that will make our girls blossom into successful women—whatever their chosen path!
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Michelle Miller uses her love of experiential learning every day, with education as the thread of her career path. Miller is currently Vice-President, Chief Counsel, Employment Law at Medtronic, Inc., in which she proactively identifies and addresses workplace legal, policy, and employee relations issues, as well as provides legal guidance and resources for senior management.
With diversity as her calling, she works closely with internal and external organizations in the areas of diversity and inclusion.
Education and lifelong learning are foundational factors that Miller works to instill in both her professional and personal life. Prior to entering law school, Miller was a teacher, counselor, college administrator, and human resources professional. Miller received a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Southern Methodist University, and a juris doctor degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Previously with Dayton Hudson Corporation and the law firm of Leonard, Street and Deinard, Miller joined Medtronic in 1996. She has also served as a Special Master for the Federal District Court of Minnesota and the Eastern District of Michigan for a substantial employment discrimination class action. Miller has over 30 years’ experience with workplace and employment law issues and is a qualified neutral mediator.
In addition to education, Miller is dedicated to improving access to healthcare for people of color, youth, and women. She has a long history of community service and is currently a member of the University Of St. Thomas Law School Board Of Governors, the Minneapolis YWCA Board and the Corporate Institute Board of Advisers for the University of Minnesota Law School.
Miller has served as a board member of The Children’s Theater Company, Minneapolis Community and Technical Colleges, the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, and Minnesota Women Lawyers, among others. Miller is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council, a nationally recognized organization of African American executives. Miller has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America for 2008 and 2015 by Savoy Professional Magazine, as well as 2007 Women Worth Watching by The Diversity Journal.
Miller credits her 10 years as a Girl Scout as the first activity that reinforced the idea that she could be a contributing member of her community. Through her leader’s encouragement, she and her troop members were inspired to be independent thinkers and turn thoughts into actions. She believed Girl Scouts prepared her for something not all women can do—set their own destiny.
Her best advice to girls is, “Bring your whole selves to school, to work, and back home. When you become comfortable with who you are, only then can you figure out who you want to be.”
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Kate Mortenson is a community leader, social entrepreneur, and philanthropist. Mortenson’s extensive experience with strategy development and her ability to leverage cross-sector leadership and community engagement have led her to her current position as the President and CEO of the 2019 Minneapolis Final Four Local Organizing Committee.
Mortenson’s experience as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer was the springboard for her career in community impact, and eventually, philanthropy. She cites the “pragmatic idealism” developed through her Peace Corps role, and her training and work as a journalist, as cross-sector experiences that make her more effective in both volunteer and professional roles. In her work life, Mortenson develops strategies and execution plans for complex initiatives that benefit the community. After serving as Bid Director for Minneapolis’ competitive bid to host a Final Four Basketball Championship, Mortenson accepted the role of host committee CEO for the 2019 event.
As a volunteer leader and community organizer for over fifteen years, Mortenson has led civic action and community impact efforts in California, Washington, and Minnesota. When Mortenson sees a need in the community, she focuses her strengths to build relationships with the people involved, co-creating solutions, and championing catalytic change vs. incremental change.
Establishing herself in Minneapolis 9 years ago, Mortenson became the founder/leader of the Friends of the Future for Northside Achievement Zone—an enterprise designed to provide long-term support for a national anti-poverty program. With a founding team she had gathered she developed and implemented a strategic plan to jump-start a major donor program and build an influence network, raising over $850,000 from a variety of philanthropic sectors.
Mortenson holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. Her dedication to the Federal Promise Neighborhood and development in urban Minneapolis, earned her the Social Venture Partners and MN Philanthropy Partners, 2012 Engaged Philanthropist Award.
She serves a variety of community organizations and is a member of the Minnesota Women’s Economic RoundTable, and a Board Member at MN Public Radio and The Greater Twin Cities United Way, as well as the Mortenson Family Foundation. She previously served on the board of The Blake School and MacPhail Center for Music.
Just as Girl Scouts creates an empowering all-girl environment, Mortenson tributes her learning and continual growth to the inspiring women around her. She believes that woman and girls should not only have mentors but be mentors to one another, even in informal and small ways.
Mortenson encourages girls to always bring their best selves to everything they do, be open to new experiences, and invest in building their personal and professional networks. She believes through hard work, persistence, and great mentors, girls can realize any goal for their life.
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